For fans of Megan Abbott and Chris Bohjalian comes a novel of moral complexity about friends who must choose between self-preservation and doing the right thing in the wake of a fatal boating accident. Set in the moody off-season of Martha’s Vineyard, Everything That Follows is a plunge into the dark waters of secrets and flexible morals. The truth becomes whatever we say it is…
Around midnight, three friends take their partying from bar to boat on a misty fall evening. Just as the weather deteriorates, one of them suddenly and confusingly goes overboard. Is it an accident? The result of an unwanted advance? His body disappears quickly, silently, into the dark water. The circumstances are murky, but what is clear is that the other two need to notify the authorities. Minutes become hours become days as they hesitate, caught up in their guilt and hope that their friend has somehow made it safely to shore. As valuable time passes, they find themselves deep in a moral morass with huge implications as they struggle to move forward and live with their dark secret.
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It didn’t seem dangerous until the rain started. Not really. Until then, the evening still felt largely unwritten and within their control. But as the fog changed to mist and then to hard wet rain that soaked their boozy skin, the night started to get away from them. Doors were closing, options vanishing. And by the time Kat was being pulled by Kyle unwillingly toward the edge of the boat, the approaching danger was inescapable. Kat blinked the water out of her eyelashes. When her vision cleared, Kyle’s face was just inches from her own. Someone watching from behind might have mistaken them as a couple in an intimate embrace, that suspension of breath before a first kiss. But that person would have been wrong. Their closeness was not voluntary. Kat twisted her torso around and tried to get a clearer view of where behind her Hunter was seated, but Kyle’s fingers dug harder into her waist. He was leaning back against the wall of the whaler’s stern, pulling her weight toward him. All she could see beyond his body was the black, churning ocean. Three of them were on the boat—Kat, Kyle and Hunter—so maybe the encounter didn’t really look romantic. Three people made it something else. But what, Kat couldn’t pinpoint. She twisted around again, trying to catch Hunter’s attention, but it was useless. Hunter had passed out somewhere around the last finger of whiskey and hadn’t budged since. Now he was slumped along the white leather bench at the bow, his face pressed into the smooth cushions that formed a half-moon. He didn’t flinch as the rain pelted his tanned skin. Kat turned back to Kyle. His face was too close, distorted. The sharp angles of his jaw, his prominent nose and dark eyes. He looked surprisingly hideous at such proximity. The night wasn’t supposed to end this way. Nothing they planned pointed to this. It was supposed to be a celebration. And yet, there they were, alone on the Atlantic in the driving rain. Kyle shouldn’t have been there, either. That, it seemed now, was where they’d taken a wrong turn. If anyone were to be out on that fishing boat late at night, it should have been Kat and her boyfriend, Sean, and their friend Hunter.It was Hunter’s boat. They were supposed to be celebrating her biggest sale ever: a large, blown-glass sculpture she called The Selkie. The Selkie was the size of a toddler and twice as heavy, and its sale would pay for a year’s worth of rent. Glassblowers don’t make a lot of sales like that—not even on Martha’s Vineyard—and so a night of overindulgence might have been expected. But the party at the bar went on too long, and the after-party shouldn’t have happened at all. With or without Kyle, the boat had been a bad idea. Kyle’s shoulders swayed with a gust of wet wind. He looked around nervously at the choppy waters and used one hand to steady himself on the edge of the boat before returning it to Kat’s waist. Was that hesitation she saw? A second thought about where he was taking this? In his inebriation, Kyle seemed to be oscillating between asking permission and not asking. He was a beggar and a predator both at once. But his grip on her body didn’t relent for long. Kat still felt trapped. “Kyle, let’s drive back in. It’s starting to really come down.” “We will, we will,” he said. “In a few minutes.” Even if she broke away from him, where would she go? Kat was usually good at this—recognizing untrustworthy characters and threatening scenarios. It was a skill learned of necessity, unfortunately for her. But the whiskey had dulled her powers. And Kyle had seemed so desperate to impress, too passive to be a threat. She didn’t see this move coming. She’d overlooked the signs, and at some point along the way, the evening simply got away from her.