Thank You to St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advanced copy of Stephanie Gangi's novel, The Next, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - After a long battle with breast cancer, Joanna DeAngelis has just died, but unfortunately, she cannot rest in peace; Joanna has unfinished business. Before she can move on with her afterlife, she must return to earth in her ghostly body and make things right with her past.
LIKE- The Next is part revenge story and part family drama. The revenge part is a fun ride, as Joanna's ghostly form becomes a physical energy for destruction aimed primarily at her much younger former lover, who abandoned her while she was dying and is now expecting a child with a gorgeous "celebrity-dermatologist". What woman wouldn't want revenge? The revenge is brutal, relentless, and highly imaginative. Gangi is adept at writing these fantasy elements and high action sequences.
I was caught off-guard by how much the mother-daughter relationship, especially with the sisters coming to terms with losing their mother, would affect me. Yes, I cried. Buckets. One of the reoccurring themes is how people see one other. Does anyone really see the true you? Toward the end of the story, Gangi has written several stunningly beautiful paragraphs about the moments that Joanna has imprinted in her memory regarding her daughters, how she sees and remembers them. It's got me in the heart. I can't imagine any mother reading this story not becoming inspired to write a similar letter to their children.
I loved the dog and the idea of Joanna trying to keep hidden from her dog, who is able to see her ghost and goes nuts. The overall storyline for the dog ends in a beautiful way that will give animal lovers the warm fuzzies.
DISLIKE- The story was uneven and didn't really pick up steam until the last half. The first half, is very sluggish. If I hadn't been reading this for a review, I'm not sure that I would have continued reading. It took a long time for me to feel a connection to Joanna and her daughters. They have tough exteriors, with the vulnerability hidden until much later in the novel.
RECOMMEND- Maybe. There is much to enjoy in The Next, and Gangi proves that she is an affecting and gifted writer. She is an author that I will keep my eye on and will definitely read again, but this particular book, I'm on the fence about recommending.
On a side note, the publication date for The Next, is October 18th, which would have been my mom's seventy-seventh birthday. Reading The Next, brought up many memories of my mom, especially when she was ill with cancer and passed nearly nine years ago. Being an only child, I was a rather envious of the sisters in the story, but I also liked seeing them come closer together over a shared loss. I became very close to my aunt, my mom's only sibling, after my mom died.