Title: What Next?
Author: Shari Low
Published on: 13 April 2022
Val and her best friend, Josie, had planned a Thelma and Louise bucket list style holiday. But Josie passed away before they could strike things off their bucket list. Carly, Val’s niece, is now married to Sam Morton, a successful Hollywood actor and producer. She’s moving to LA permanently and her friends Kate and Carol (also Carly’s sister-in-law) have arrived to say their goodbyes.
Val comes over and tells them about the bucket list. Carly postpones her romantic week with Sam while Carol too decides to join Val and Carly on this trip of a lifetime. At LA airport, they meet Jess. She’s broken off her engagement with Arnie, Sam’s friend and stuntman, and is on her way back to UK. Val convinces her to join them for the bucket list trip.
There are three books in this ‘series’ – What If? What Now? and What Next? I missed reading the second book – What Now? but I did not find it difficult to follow the story. In fact, each book can be read as a standalone so if you are planning to pick this book up, don’t worry about the characters’ backstory.
The story begins with Carly, Carol, Val and Jess in jail. Yes, you read that right. Val complains that she’s not getting any five-star treatment while Carly blames herself for the lock-up. Then, we have the events that lead to these four ladies spending time behind bars.
Four narrators – Carol, Carly, Val and Jess. Four side stories. One epic trip of a lifetime. Carol, Kate, Carly, Jess and Sarah have been friends since childhood. Sarah and her husband Nick were killed in a plane crash a couple of years ago. The group still grieves the loss of their friend.
Carol is not only Carly’s best friend but also her sister-in-law. She’s married to Callum and has two grown-up daughters. Carol is a social-media influencer. But, lately, she’s been feeling a bit down. She doesn’t find happiness in anything – neither in her relationship (with her husband) or the praises she receives from her fans.
Carly is leaving UK and moving to US. It is not an easy decision for her. Sam stayed over for two years – until he wrapped up the production. His home is in LA and when they were married, Carly knew that one day she would have to leave her friends and family behind in UK and move to LA. But when she arrives at LA, she’s not happy. To add to her woes is frequent visits by Sam’s ex-girlfriend/co-actor. If this wasn’t enough trouble, Carly’s pictures are posted online.
First was the Baywatch scene (from the bucket list) where Carly was the victim of a fashion faux pas. Well, in her defense, the bikini wasn’t covering up well so she had to wear a rainbow colored knickers… Hmm! Then, comes the shopping trip – Carly is photographed carrying lots of shopping bags and people start to comment that she’s a gold digger.
Then we have Aunty Val’s story – her notes to Josie were quite hilarious. Val has no knowledge of modern technology. She tells Josie about Carol uplifting a video on Instagram and it’s gone virus. Also, another discussion about uplifting a video to Tak Tok. Lordy! As the story proceeds, it becomes very clear to the reader as to why Val wanted to do the bucket list trip right away.
Jess had two failed marriages behind her. She had decided to be happy with casual relationships and one-night-stands with strangers. But that changed when she met Arnie. After dating for a while, Arnie proposed and Jess said yes. But things changed once again when Jess caught Arnie talking to his ex-wife. The cherry on top was when his daughter said he cannot marry Jess because they still are ‘a family’. Jess is convinced by Val to join them on the bucket list trip.
Carol’s story was quite relatable. She’s a social media influencer and has more than a million followers. Yet, she’s not happy in life. The praises seem superficial. There are people wanting to live her life but she feels so empty from inside. Isn’t this the case in real life, too? Social media has brought people closer but there’s always the risk of getting lost in ’15 minutes of fame’. Also, one has to remain their absolute best no matter what they are going through. Being an influencer is quite a stressful job. What say?
The four women tick all the nine items off Val’s bucket list. At the beginning of the story, we are told that Val hid the last wish – purposely. What is the tenth item on the list? Well, the revelation was quite a surprise and not to mention, hilarious.
I loved the characters and the storytelling. I have come to adore Shari’s writing. So relatable. So charming and touching.
What Next? by Shari Low was an enjoyable read. If you are looking for a thoughtful and emotional read, I recommend you to give this book a try.