Grief’s possible outcomes

Review of ‘The Possibilities’ by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

 

The Possibilities
Kaui Hart Hemmings
274 pages, hardcover:
$25.
Simon & Schuster, 2014.

In Kaui Hart Hemmings’ new novel, The Possibilities, the tourist town of Breckenridge, Colorado, becomes the setting for a family tragedy that is also a romance. Like her previous book, The Descendants, which went on to become a hit movie, The Possibilities grapples with the complexities of modern family life. After a young man named Cully is killed in an avalanche, everything in his orbit is upended: the relationships between parents and children, lovers and ex-lovers, grandparents and great-grandparents, the self and its discontents.

Over three days, the reader travels with Cully’s mother, Sarah, from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs for a memorial service, and back again, accompanied by Cully’s father, grandfather and a female friend of Cully’s, whom the bereaved family has never met. Not much happens, yet everything changes. Hemmings is a writer of humor and nuance, charting the internal trajectories of grief as they manifest in her characters.

“A surprise spring of tears floods my vision. … None of this makes sense. Part of me wants to jump off the balcony. Part of me wants to sing from it. I love and hate this life.” Gazing at Pikes Peak after yet another surprising revelation about her son, Sarah tries to reconcile opposing realities. At the same time, she begins constructing a new identity for herself, one that no longer includes motherhood.

A native of Breckenridge and a descendant of settlers, Sarah turns a wry gaze on the ritzy ski-town residents of the former miners’ hamlet. Tidbits from Breckenridge history sprinkle the domestic drama, like the story of the minister who deliberately rang his morning bells early to awaken the hungover residents. “One day some of the townspeople used dynamite mining caps to blow up his church steeple.”

Parts of the novel elicit laughter, others flashes of the deepest sorrow. The Possibilities, like a sturdy chairlift, transports the reader from the bottom to the summit of life, taking in the whole human range between ecstasy and despair.

“I live in a beautiful place. The surrounding pines, so impossibly tall, sparkle with snow. I tilt my face and inhale, willing my surroundings to enter me somehow and to remind me how small I am.”

A snowboarder triggers an avalanche.
Ivan Chudakov /Shutterstock
High Country News Classifieds
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Southern Nevada Conservancy Board of Directors announces an outstanding opportunity for a creative leader to continue building this organization. SNC proudly supports Nevada's public...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.