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posted: 5/17/2014 5:45 AM

Novel treats heavy subject matter with light touch

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  • There is much to like in "The Possibilities" by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

      There is much to like in "The Possibilities" by Kaui Hart Hemmings.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/SIMON AND SCHUSTER

 
By Michelle Scheraga, Associated Press

In the resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, Sarah St. John is mourning her son, Cully, who died in an avalanche while snowboarding.

Author Kaui Hart Hemmings demonstrates a light touch with a heavy subject matter in "The Possibilities" as Sarah, her father, her friend Suzanne and Cully's father, who had been a summer fling when Sarah was in her 20s, navigate through their loss and a world without Cully, as they learn about the kind of man Cully had become.

Sarah resists sentimental forms of grief, and turns away from what she considers generic support (as when an acquaintance suggests she join Parents Against Avalanche Disaster). While she knows that, three months after Cully's death, it's time to move on, she is reluctant to do so, especially as she learns how little she really knew her son. We feel her loss on every page.

There's a somewhat predictable plot point involving a young woman who knew Cully showing up on Sarah's doorstep, and it follows a somewhat predictable narrative arc, right up to the point where it deviates elegantly into something more realistic and ultimately more meaningful. I have no doubt that Hemmings knew she was writing a well-worn trope and actively fought against it.

Those who enjoyed Hemmings' debut, "The Descendants" (or the movie directed by Alexander Payne), will find much to like here.

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