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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Next Thing You Know

ISBN: 978-1250241641

Publisher: St Martin's Press

Publication Date: 03/22/2022

Format: Other (e-book & audio)

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)

Narrator: Christa Lewis

Macmillan Audio

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.

"Unflinching and unforgettable, this one will crack your heart open and slowly stitch it back together.” Christina McDonald, bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell

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.

Jessica Strawser's 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.

Loved the audiobook narrated by Christa Lewis!


"Uplifting, hopeful, and full of wisdom about surviving loss, embracing life, and offering and accepting forgiveness."

―Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White

"Jessica Strawser does it again―first-rate storytelling, a fresh, unique premise, and a didn't-see-that-coming twist, resulting in a book that's unputdownable! Strawser spins a wise, thought-provoking story that crackles with tension and intrigue. Perfect for book clubs, The Next Thing You Know will have you pondering end-of-life issues, and guessing the final, shocking twist."

―Lori Nelson Spielman, internationally bestselling author of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

“A breathtaking, emotional, and compelling novel, The Next Thing You Know is a poignant look at love and hope, and the importance of living every moment with no regrets. Unflinching and unforgettable, this one will crack your heart open and slowly stitch it back together.”

―Christina McDonald, bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell

"A magical tale of love and loss...bittersweet yet ultimately comforting." ―Publishers Weekly

"An emotional, powerful, and page-turning read."

― Megan Collins, author of The Family Plot

My Review

Bittersweet. Compelling. Thought-provoking. Insightful. Poignant.

Talented bestselling author and storyteller Jessica weaves a beautiful story of love and loss with THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW.

Her best yet! I LOVED this book. An ideal choice for books clubs and further discussions. A fitting title and a stunning cover. Hauntingly beautiful, yet uplifting, this story will grab you from the first page to the last, and the characters linger long after the book ends. Hats off to the author for tackling this emotional story with grace and compassion.

Meet Nova Huston, an end-of-life doula. She is a free spirit and lives life in the present. She also has a way with her patients or clients. She is also a cancer survivor.

Her business partner (Parting Your Way), Kelly, assigns her a new case. Mason implies he has a terminal condition but never says the terminal illness or how long he has to live. He is not the typical senior at the end of life but a young man.

His name is Mason Shaylor, and he is a 36-year-old singer-songwriter-musician and quite successful and well known. However, he can no longer play or perform due to an unsuccessful surgery. He thinks his life is over since he can no longer play the guitar. What is he to do now?

He is pretty depressed and has no interest in teaching music or going on the road to talk about his tragedy. He signs up for an end-of-life Doula. He even has Nova go to the music shop to sell his beloved Gibson guitar. He learns much from the wonderful wisdom of Nova and some of her other patients.

Mason and Nova get very close. She gets him. More so than any of his family. They become romantically involved. However, she urges him to try new things and make every day count with the time he has left.

Then the unspeakable happens. An accident. A tragedy. A pending lawsuit. Fingers are pointed at Nova. She cannot believe this. Soon, his producer Dex uncovers evidence, which sheds light positively for Nova and Mason. Things are not as they appear.

"He'd gone to a death doula to say goodbye, And somehow, she'd saved his life instead."

From then to now, from Nova and Mason, beautifully rendered, with compassion and sensitivity, Strawser pens a beautiful love story. We also hear from Willow and Dex near the end. The song was poignant and loved every word.

Heartbreaking, emotional, yet uplifting. What a journey: from loss, grief, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. A lesson for us all: "to live in the present moment." You never know who will come into your life with the power to change you and them.

Thank you so much, Jessica, for this wealth of information and beautiful story. Very educational. This was definitely a book for me. I had already been researching Doulas so this was a real treat. What an intimate experience. I have read already many of the books she has referenced and will be reading the few others, I missed. I was fascinated by everything I learned.

As a baby boomer myself about to go into my 70s, single and no family or close friends here in Florida, this is always on my mind. My sons are out of state in NC with busy lives and I want to prepare. Even though my will and end-of-life documents and cremation, etc. are complete I am missing this valuable piece. I love the idea of a Doula. Everyone needs one. Who wants to die alone, but often out of dignity, we do. I know currently Medicare and insurance companies do not pay but that could change. Often we pay for skilled nursing at home out of pocket so this would be worth it.

For years, families have been using birth coaches called doulas to help make the childbirth experience more comfortable and supportive for mothers. Now, both volunteer and professionally trained doulas are offering guidance during the end-of-life period as well which makes perfect sense.

Like many of you possibly, I just spent years dealing with my mom's cancer and dad's heart health issues and was their POA and executor, facilitating end-of-life decisions and fighting hospice doctors, hospitals, and lack of care and personal attention. At the same time hiring live-in specialized nurses until it was time to move to hospice—a horrible experience. Not what I had planned for them when they passed. Often if you experience this firsthand, you see the missing link. Not something my parent's generation thought about or planned for. A Doula would have been perfect for the personal attention and the missing link.

I think they serve so many purposes as we see in the novel. I love listening to their stories. Often times a dying person can share their wishes with a Doula, whereas would not open up to their own family, as we see in the novel. Since reading this wonderful story, I have watched several interviews with Suzanne B. O'Brien, R.N. and her wonderful Ask a Death Doula podcast, as well as interviews of other EOLDs, insights, and references.

I hope with all the baby boomers we will shake things up a little and bring this to the forefront where it belongs. We all need that special attention. These are gifted people. We should not be afraid to speak about death. I think this topic scares most Americans. We all want to die with dignity and hopefully pain-free. But we cannot wait until the last minute. This is something that needs to be planned. We all need to be educated about the dying experience, with no regrets, forgiveness, and make our wishes known. They offer tools of empowerment.

Have some Kleenex handy. Fans of Nicholas Sparks, Jo Jo Moyes, Rochelle Weinstein, and Jodi Picoult will enjoy this one.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by the lovely Christa Lewis and enjoyed her soft, soothing voice offered a pleasant listening experience. I was hanging on her every word while she drew you into the sitting and the conversations. This is a TOP audiobook, and I would highly recommend the audio and the book to accompany.

Thank you dearly to St. Martin's Press, Macmillan Audio, and NetGalley for an ARC e-book and audiobook and for the opportunity to read this special book.

Ironically, after reading THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, I read an ARC, the memoir Winter Stars: an elderly mother, an aging son, and life’s final journey which is also out on the same day, March 22. It is also superb and highly recommend. I loved the two women who lovingly took care of his mother down to death at age 105- they even made her burial dress and knew everything she wanted down to the last detail with special care and attention which totally surprised the son.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating 5/5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ++

About the Author

Photo by Corrie Schaffeld

Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade and became known for her in-depth cover interviews with such luminaries as David Sedaris and Alice Walker. She’s the author of the book club favorites Almost Missed You, a Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick; Not That I Could Tell, a Book of the Month bestseller; Forget You Know Me, awarded a starred review by Publishers Weekly, and A Million Reasons Why, called “a standout” in a starred Booklist review and named to Most Anticipated lists from Goodreads, SheReads, Frolic, E! News & others ahead of its March 2021 release. Her fifth novel, The Next Thing You Know, is forthcoming in March 2022 (all from St. Martin’s Press).

Honored as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Strawser has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. A contributing editor for Career Authors and an active Tall Poppy Writer, she keynotes frequently for writing conferences, book fairs and festivals, book clubs, libraries, and other events that are kind enough to invite her. She tweets @jessicastrawser and enjoys connecting on Facebook and Instagram.

Let’s stay in touch. Join my email list for (very) occasional updates and hellos.







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