Author: Christina Suzann Nelson
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Publisher: Bethany House
"Everyone has a story, and maybe everyone needs a little help toward healing."
Popular podcaster and ex-reporter Faith Byrne made a name for herself telling stories of greatness after tragedy--but her real life does not mirror the stories she tells. While her daughters spend the summer in Hawaii with her ex-husband and his new wife, she must manage life on her own. All of that changes when she's asked to spotlight her childhood best friend's missing person case on her podcast.
Dora Crane has never accepted that her younger daughter could be dead, keeping her home looking the same as when her daughter disappeared. But when her husband leaves her and her older daughter intervenes, she agrees to counseling and to pack up her missing daughter's belongings under one condition: Faith Byrne comes to Deep Valley and sheds light on the cold case.
As the long-abandoned investigation moves forward, old wounds and long-buried secrets are exposed. Will these two women, whose lives have never been the same, finally get the answers they need to reconcile the past and the future?
Reviewer: Amy Smelser
Wow, this story. First, I will note that this is not my usual read. I tend to avoid stories about missing children unless I know how it ends. However, with that being said, I have read author Nelson before and have liked the way she tells her stories. The synopsis intrigued me enough to pick up the book.
This story was about loss and grief and life not turning out to be fair or how we would like it to be. It is a story about different kinds of loss. Not just every mother's worst nightmare. Without giving anything away, the author delves into loss and grief in a hopeful manner. Now with that being said, this story did break my heart, and I was crying by the end.
We are told the story from three different points of view. Dora, the grieving mother who will not give up hope of her daughter returning home, even though it has cost her everything and everybody else in the thirty-six years Heather has been missing.
Faith was Heather's best friend the summer before Heather disappeared. Faith was unaware of Heather's disappearance as she moved away before it happened, and no one told her. So, when she finds out, it comes as a complete shock. Faith actually has an interesting job. She is a podcaster who delves into hope, the "what happens next" aspect of life after a tragedy. That is also the name of her podcast.
And the third point of view is Heather herself. The ten-year-old girl having fun in the summer of 1987 with her friends in a small town in the USA. We see and view the events of that summer through her eyes and what was actually happening.
This story is not for the faint of heart. It took me a little time to get through it. I was pulled into the story but knew the reading would be hard. It was also not a story to skim or skip to the end. I needed to read it straight through, as the revelations happened to the characters in the story too.
A heartbreaking but hopeful read written with beautiful emotion about the love of family and friends and a hope that surpasses all understanding.
I was provided a copy of this novel by Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews. I was not required to post a positive review, and all views and opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Joy Hannabass
When I saw the beautiful and intriguing cover of What Happens Next by Christina Suzann Nelson, I knew I had to have it. I love choosing books by their beautiful cover, and I picked a winner with this one.
What Happen Next is told through the eyes of Dora: Heather's mom, Heather: Dora's daughter, and Faith: Heather's best friend. Faith and Heather were pretty much inseparable in the summer of 1987, and after Faith's family moved in with her grandma. Faith's family moved when the summer was about over, and she and Heather did not communicate anymore.
Being a Podcaster in her adult life brought a familiar person into Faith's life one day, Heather's sister, asking Faith to shed light about her sister's disappearance decades ago. No one told Faith, so of course, she was very shocked. She struggled much with the decision but decided to do her part and help find her best friend.
Wow! What a story! Probably halfway through the book, Nelson drops a hint that gave me the jitters, and I couldn't put the book down after that. Dora and her family have been grieving Heather's disappearance all this time. Dora was turning her family away because she couldn't stop grieving the loss of her daughter. Could she still be alive? So many questions. And not one answer. I don't go to the end of books to get answers, so I had to speed-read the last half of the book. I had a fit to know what happened. So I'll reread this book very soon, much slower, so I don't miss anything. It is too good not to give it another try.
This was my first book by Christina Suzann Nelson, and boy, am I glad I chose it to review. Nelson's writing is phenomenal. She can capture the true feelings of the wonderful characters she created. The story has a realistic feel, and the characters are spot on.
Nelson does a fantastic job of going from the excitement of the 1987 summer to the excruciating grief in Dora, to the sadness, to the disappointments, and to the acceptance and peace in the characters. Emotions were running every which way in this beautiful story. I felt like these were real family and friends I was reading about.
I enjoyed the subtle touch of romance between Nate and Faith, which gave a warm, loving feeling. This is a book you don't want to miss. It's Christian fiction, so it's clean. Check out What Happens Next by Christina Suzann Nelson. You will be very glad you did! What Happen Next is getting Five plus stars from me. I'd love to give it more.
I received this book courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest review.
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
This is the second book of Nelson's I have read. And I have to admit it was even better than the first.
In 2020, I read her More Than We Remember and was definitely captivated by it. It wasn't a feel-good read, but it did have some uplifting messages.
The cover of this book drew me right to it! Gorgeous and stunning contrasted with the creepy and foreboding. And the title gets its name from Faith's podcast – "What Happens Next," the theme being overcoming tragedy and how families move on. That element of the book and the "unsolved mystery" of Heather's disappearance made me want to read this.
Given the plot, it is clear this will have some triggers: divorce, missing child, and cancer. There is a mention of Jaycee Dugard as well. There is a slight reference to a controversial ex-president. It is used as a reference and not as an endorsement.
There is a reference to Enneagram typing. Some Christians take issue with it, others use it to live their lives, and some only use it as a guide.
Faith gets involved when Heather's sister contacts her. Faith's daughters will be spending the entire summer in Hawaii with her ex-husband and his soon-to-be wife. However, this isn't what she does, but it will give her time to revisit that summer, especially wondering why her friend never contacted her. She also reconnects with her childhood crush, who is now part of the police department.
This is told through three different and unique POVs:
Faith – present, third person
Heather – past, first person
Dora (Heather's mom) – present, first person
The unpredictability of the case as the story wore on was definitely one of the best parts of it. I had a few suspicions, but Nelson kept it a mystery until nearly the end. The end is a bit predictable, but in a way, it did fit the podcast's theme as well.
Of course, there are elements to not like: Faith's ex-husband Neil was a jerk but did experience somewhat of a redemptive arc at the end.
What broke my heart was Heather's mom, Dora, who seemingly stopped living her life the day her daughter disappeared. Nelson brought a realistic vibe to the story with that. It was clear Dora needed some intervention, especially over an incident with a neighbor. Her husband Paul had the most realistic attitude – he loved his daughter, but he had other children. Just because he lived his life didn't mean he didn't miss his daughter.
I liked the subtle romance between Nate and Faith as they investigated the case and saw how much they still loved each other. The end was also wonderful – like "there is purpose to everything."
As someone who used to watch Unsolved Mysteries (hosted by Robert Stack) and get terrified of it (even now) – this was one of those types of reads that gave me the creeps, especially in the 1987 timeline. It also had a The Lovely Bones kind of vibe to it.
It was definitely hard to put down and held my attention. I read it within 12 hours. Nelson is a wonderful storyteller who keeps the reader engaged. Like her other novels, this is a standalone read.
Despite being from a primarily Christian publisher, like More Than We Remember, there were very few elements of the Christian Faith.
What Happens Next is a moving, poignant, deeply emotional, and dramatic read that gives readers hope to move past a tragedy. It also reminds us of our need for compassion and purpose.
I am definitely going to keep an eye out for her next book and perhaps check out the others she's written.
Thank you, Revell, for providing a complimentary review copy through Interviews and Reviews. A positive review was not required nor requested, and all words are my own.
Reviewer: Tammy Lunsford
Wow! I would give this book ten stars if I could! I was completely sucked into this book from the first few pages. This was a powerful, heart-wrenching story of a loss that forever changed the lives of an entire family.
Faith Byrne is an ex-reporter who now has a popular podcast that centers around stories from people who have risen above tragic circumstances. She is still reeling from her divorce from her husband of many years when she receives a call that is a blast from the past.
Brooke Crane is the sister of Heather. Heather and Faith were inseparable one summer many years ago before Faith had to move away. She learns that Heather disappeared on a day soon after Faith moved away and was never seen again. The case has grown completely cold. Brooke wants Faith to use her podcast to breathe life back into the case so that Heather's family can find peace and hopefully find new clues.
This was a very emotional book, ranging from grief to sadness to peace. The book is divided into chapters told in first person by Faith, Heather, and Dora (Heather's mother). This author captured the pure grief of this family and put it into words that will bring tears to your eyes. The past and present will collide to hopefully bring some closure to a family with a painful past that they cannot seem to run away from. I felt empathy and sympathy for these characters as they tried to work through their grief differently. These characters demonstrated how emotionally damaging it can be to hold onto grief, anger, and the past. The mystery was very well written while dropping clues throughout the book. This was a powerful story with mystery, suspense, hope, and faith tied together. This was the first book that I have ever read by this author. She has a new fan in me. I will be going back to read her other books.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
We are listed in The Book Reviewers Directory!