Title: The Next Thing You Know
Author: Jessica Strawser
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: March 22, 2022
A musician facing the untimely end of his career. An end-of-life doula with everything, and nothing, to lose. A Star Is Born meets Me Before You in this powerful novel by the author of A Million Reasons Why.
As an end-of-life doula, Nova Huston’s job—her calling, her purpose, her life—is to help terminally ill people make peace with their impending death. Unlike her business partner, who swears by her system of checklists, free-spirited Nova doesn’t shy away from difficult clients: the ones who are heartbreakingly young, or prickly, or desperate for a caregiver or companion.
When Mason Shaylor shows up at her door, Nova doesn’t recognize him as the indie-favorite singer-songwriter who recently vanished from the public eye. She knows only what he’s told her: That life as he knows it is over. His deteriorating condition makes playing his guitar physically impossible—as far as Mason is concerned, he might as well be dead already.
Except he doesn’t know how to say goodbye.
Helping him is Nova’s biggest challenge yet. She knows she should keep clients at arm’s length. But she and Mason have more in common than anyone could guess… and meeting him might turn out to be the hardest, best thing that’s ever happened to them both.
The Next Thing You Know is an emotional, resonant story about the power of human connection, love when you least expect it, hope against the odds, and what it really takes to live life with no regrets.
I have liked Jessica Strawser's other work so you could understand how excited I was to dive into The Next Thing You Know.
Nova Huston is an end-of-life doula. She works for Kelly Monroe at Partying Your Way. Kelly is also a doula and she and her daughter Willow have formed a friendship and a bond with Nova.
End-of-life doulas can be their client's support system, the go in-between with family. They can guide their clients with their legal issues and end-of-life care. End-of-life doulas are also there to help with the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of their journey. Kelly's way of working is more by the book. She's responsible and loves to follow protocol. On the other hand, Nova just goes more with her gut feeling. Nova also takes the cases Kelly doesn't like to do, for example, a young person their age dying. So when Mason Shaylor comes knocking, Kelly immediately passes him to Nova.
Mason tells Nova he has a deteriorating condition and there is nothing left to be done to help him. After a rocky start, Nova takes him as her new client and she's hopeful she can help him with his transition.
Then we switched to the present where Nova is in trouble and Kelly's business might be in danger of closing. Mason's mother has made an accusation against Nova. First to the police and then to the media. Nova's world is imploding while she mourns her loss too.
The Next Thing You Know was thought-provoking and also quite informative. I knew all about Hospice and end-of-life care but not about doulas and the extra help they could bring to a patient in the right setting. Most of the time is quite hard for patients and families to accept hospice coming in and helping. I believe the last time I saw a statistic, hospice was underused. Most people are only in hospice for a median average of 24 days so not enough time to actually use all its benefits.
Death for most people is not an easy topic to discuss. Patients and family members tend to avoid talking about advance directives. Yet, the one constant is that we are all going to die so it would be nice if we can get the help we need during the end of our life. A support system, helping with pain, acceptance of the inevitable, seeking forgiveness, dealing with unresolved feelings and regrets. I can see the use of end-of-life doulas in this regard.
Even though I liked this book, I didn't like the ending quite that much. I thought the explanation was just too out there for my liking. Other than that, I have no qualms about recommending it.
A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.