Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: The Next

Summary: Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time. Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right—makes Ned pay—so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after. -- St. Martins Press

Ok -- here's a new premise for you. A woman dies from cancer and she's determined to get revenge on her ex boyfriend. Yes -- you heard that right. That's the basic gist of the new novel THE NEXT by Stephanie Gangi. A ghost wreaks "ghostlike" havoc on her ex's life while also playing mother to her two adult daughters.

THE NEXT tells the story of Joanna DeAngelis, a woman who is dying from cancer much too early. Rather than spend what little time she has left with her two daughters, she is obsessed with rage against her younger ex-boyfriend Ned. She is fixated on her phone and follows Ned's life as he dates a glamorous and successful woman. She's furious enough at him for leaving her, but when she discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant with Ned's baby, she can't even think straight. She begins fantasizing about revenge, and that's exactly what she decides to do when she passes to the "other side."

After her death, Joanna does some major damage to Ned in an effort to make him pay for his indiscretions. However, she does so at the expense of her daughters. They are dealing with feelings of guilt and grief, and Joanna doesn't even realize how much pain they are in because she's too concerned with revenge. Joanna eventually does find satisfaction in making Ned realize his mistakes, and she is able to move on in her death. Fortunately, her daughters learn how to live in a world without their beloved mother being physical present.

I enjoyed THE NEXT but I'm not sure I loved it. It was definitely a unique premise, and I found many of the scenes with Joanna's ghost and Ned to be pretty darn funny; however, I was a little uncomfortable with the intensity of Joanna's scorn. I spent much of the novel wanting her to realize the pain that her daughters were in and turn her efforts to helping them instead of hurting Ned.

I do think THE NEXT was extremely well written. I loved Ms. Gangi's character development, and I found her insights to be spot on and very witty. I also appreciated how much humor she was able to incorporate into the novel. I laughed and laughed at a few of Ned's scenes; however, I also was touched by the grief that her girls were experiencing. It was definitely a unique mix of feelings, and all were handled equally well.

What I enjoyed most about THE NEXT was how it featured the theme of loves. Love is definitely a recurring them, and love is experience is so many different forms. There is obsessive love, unrequited love, self love, parent/child love, romantic love, and even doggie love. Personally, I loved how the book explored all of these forms of love!

THE NEXT would be an interesting selection for book clubs. Fortunately, there is a reading guide available with eleven questions. Of course you will want to discuss Joanna's behavior, but Ned and her daughters are interesting in their own rights too. Some of the other themes you might want to explore include revenge, death, grief, music, social media, and peace.

All in all, I enjoyed THE NEXT and recommend it to fans of smart stories about family relationships.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

That premise certainly is different but it sounds kind of sad to me.

Kim@Time2Read said...

Hmmm....I'm not sure about this one. It sounds different and a little sad/frustrating...but since you said it makes a good book club selection, I'm going to suggest our book club look into it for next October's selection.