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What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins
Contemporary fiction

What Comes After


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, JoAnne Tompkins, on your first book!

by JoAnne Tompkins

Quick take

How do we recover from loss? This moving novel of a town struggling after the death of two boys offers hope and wisdom.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_GraphicViolence

    Graphic violence


In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, Daniel. Next door, Lorrie, a working single mother, struggles with a heinous act committed by her own teenage son. Separated by only a silvery stretch of trees, the two parents are emotionally stranded, isolated by their great losses—until an unfamiliar pregnant sixteen-year-old girl shows up, bridges the gap, and changes everything.

Evangeline’s arrival at first feels like a blessing, but she is also clearly hiding something. When Isaac, who has retreated into his Quaker faith, isn’t equipped to handle her alone, Lorrie forges her own relationship with the girl. Soon all three characters are forced to examine what really happened in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future.

With a propulsive mystery at its core, What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes that depict violence and sexual assault, as well as mentions of suicide and suicide ideation.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of What Comes After.

Why I love it

Many books rush at plot as if it’s a wall that needs to be scaled as quickly as possible; What Comes After has plenty of plot, but none of the rush. There are moments of wisdom in its quiet scenes, such as when one character lays next to a beloved dog; and moments of kindness, too. What I loved most about What Comes After were those moments of peace, when the characters work to collect themselves in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

At the start of the novel, we find that two teenagers who lived next door to each other in a small town—Daniel and Jonah—have died in shocking ways. Daniel’s father and Jonah’s mother are left living side-by-side, locked into silence by their grief. It takes the arrival of a mysterious girl, Evangeline, for the boys’ stories to begin to be told.

This is a story about how important it is for us to truly know each other, and ourselves. Each character in the novel has a hidden, complicated truth inside them, and part of the tragedy is that these boys weren’t seen for who they were—for better and for worse—before they died. But the grief-wrecked people left behind find that there’s always time, even if it feels too late, to learn the truth. And as they throw open old creaky doors and reconsider both their neighbors and themselves, they find there is space for love.

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Member ratings (17,323)

  • Kristin N.

    Salem, OR

    This book is pure love. It’s perfection. I haven’t cried reading a book in a long time and this one just did me in. The pain, the fortitude, the compassion, and the love - eloquently written. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Joyce D.


    Dense but couldn’t put it down. I liked the multiple POVs and I appreciated that Tompkins didn’t shy away from difficult topics. Enjoyed this book overall but didn’t really love the ending. Oh well!

  • Angela T.

    Florissant, MO

    Great book with great characters. I loved how the details of the mysteries unfolded with each chapter. The ‘flashbacks’ were not a distraction the way it can sometimes be. Highly recommend this book!

  • Nicole N.

    Boise, ID

    It was “one more chapter” last night, but then so many emotions were brought up with the characters that I just couldn’t stop reading. I was bawling! I had to have closure. Upon finishing the book

  • Sierra D.

    St. Louis, MO

    This is a book you can’t put down because no matter where you stop you have so many unanswered questions. This debut has such an intricate plot & intriguing characters. I’m still in shock by the end!