It’s a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for What Next? by Shari Low, and to share my review: published by Boldwood Books on 13th April, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
I’ve mentioned before that it took me rather a long time to rediscover Shari Low’s writing – ten years ago, I really enjoyed Friday Night with the Girls, and I only remembered how wonderfully she writes when I read and loved One Summer Sunrise, which has to be one of the most perfect summer reads (you’ll find my review here). Despite the fact that this one is the third in a three-book series – many will have read and loved What If? and What Now? – I was rather looking forward to trying her writing once more…
Two weeks, four friends and one big bucket list of secrets to unravel…
Val Murray and her best friend, Josie had been planning a ‘Thelma and Louise’ bucket list style holiday.
Now Josie is gone, and Val needs to make the trip before it’s too late. But Val doesn’t want to do it alone, so she enlists the help of her nieces, Carly and Carole, and their best pal, Jess, who jump at the chance to join Val on a trip of a lifetime.
What Val doesn’t realise is that Carly, Carole and Jess are all at turning points in their own lives, nursing crushing secrets, lies and betrayals.
Somewhere between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York they all hit a crossroads and have to decide if they want to return to the lives they left behind or let Josie’s last wishes take them on a brand new adventure.
Carly really should be looking forward to moving to LA and finally being with her gorgeous Hollywood megastar husband Sam – but, much as she loves him, she’s rather fond of her life in London surrounded by her chaotic mix of friends and family. So when her larger-than-life Auntie Val turns up from Glasgow, asking if she can come along for the ride and take the opportunity to complete the bucket list of “experiences” she drew up with her much missed friend Josie, she jumps at it – and is even more delighted when close friend Carol, currently having a few problems of her own despite the perfect life she displays on her highly successful social media channels, decides she’d like to join them. When they arrive, they’re joined by long-time friend Jess – in fact, their arrival stops her fleeing her life in LA and her high-powered crisis management business, her private life that seemed so perfect having recently fallen apart.
The road trip that follows is simply wonderful. Val, her age no obstacle (in fact, she has considerably more stamina than her younger companions), intends to squeeze every drop of enjoyment she can possibly experience out of her trip – and following their adventures as the travel from LA to Las Vegas and on to New York, it’s a quite wonderful trip for the reader to share too. Val herself is a superb character – over-the-top and brimming over with energy, often inappropriate and gloriously uninhibited, although she does have her moments of introspection as she writes about her special moments in her diary to share them with Josie.
And, despite all the high octane fun and laughs, we find that the three friends have considerable issues that they need to tackle too – Carly must make some decisions about where her future lies, Jess has a relationship that she needs to either sort out or leave, and Carol needs to understand why she seems to have fallen out of love with her husband and is currently finding life so very difficult to cope with. Although she doesn’t let them hold her back for her instant, Val has her own significant secret worries too – and then there’s someone out there working hard to make Carly’s transition to her new life as difficult as possible, with photos of every riotous moment on their trip shared in a celebrity magazine.
I will admit that I did struggle a little with this book at the start – despite the helpful summary of the vast cast and their relationships at the beginning, I worried that I just couldn’t get a handle on who was related to who, or some of the key characters’ earlier relationships and life experiences, and I didn’t know whether that was going to be important. It’s never the best idea to join a series on the third book, and I did worry that I might have made a bit of a mistake reading it as a standalone. But everything most definitely came good – the story is told through the strong and distinct voices of the four women who join the trip, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way that allowed me into their heads and hearts, to understand their very real problems, and to slowly become exceptionally attached to every one of them.
This book really is tremendous fun – so much laughing, moments that fill you with sheer joy, always with the wonderful Val at their centre. But the author has a very sure touch with the emotional content too – the supportive female friendships, the ins and outs of the women’s relationships with their partners, and all the sensitively handled and more serious issues that emerge. I also really enjoyed the world she created – Carol’s social media activity was simply fascinating (and exhausting!), and Jess’ reputation management activity (who knew?) equally so, and who could fail to enjoy the inside track on the lives of the Hollywood rich and famous. This was a really lovely read – and one I’d definitely recommend to others.
About the author
Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 25 novels, including One Day In Summer, My One Month Marriage, and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow.