Most adults experience at least one great romantic love in their lifetime. Outcomes obviously vary, but not the initial devotion and desire. In Stephanie Gangi’s The Next, 46-year-old Joanna DeAngelis found her soul mate unexpectedly in Ned McGowan. Ned, a professor at Columbia, is 15 years Joanna’s junior. Despite the age difference, they were ablaze with passion from the moment they met. But after Joanna is diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, Ned commits a deplorable act of betrayal.
As her daughters, Anna and Laney, care for her, Joanna spends her final days obsessed with Ned and his perfect new life, which she follows on social media. As Joanna takes her last breath, her singular focus is vengeance. So, what happens when one dies filled with such intense drive? Joanna becomes a ghost residing in “the next,” seen and felt by whomever she chooses. She is raw energy, and revenge is her only goal.
In spirit form, Joanna is sultry, witty and as unrelenting as her combined lust and hatred for Ned. Anna and Laney take turns narrating the aftermath of their mother’s death, as does Ned himself. Each speaker’s voice and inner monologue beautifully captures the essence of that particular character while adding context to current and past events.
In her first adult novel, Gangi has created deeply flawed characters that readers still care about a great deal. Her style is gritty and descriptive, with no subject considered taboo. The Next is a fast-paced ghost story, but it is also a story about the bonds between people: family, friends, lovers and survivors. How does one move past tragedy and injustice? Gangi has presented us with an unforgettable tale describing how one family does just that.