My Rating: 2.5/5 – This book is well written and touches on important topics in a relatable way, but it just didn’t hook me and forcing myself to finish it just left a sour taste in my mouth.
Author: Joanna Cannon
Synopsis, via Goodreads: Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a quirky and utterly charming debut about a community in need of absolution and two girls learning what it means to belong.
England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God—they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.
Spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues. The cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in.
In the suffocating heat of the summer, the ability to guard these differences becomes impossible. Along with the parched lawns and the melting pavement, the lives of all the neighbors begin to unravel. What the girls don’t realize is that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was beginning to peel back just before she disappeared.
This book stalled me. I usually can’t wait to dive in to my current read whenever I get a free moment – I’ll sneak in reads during my lunchtime at the office, while my kids are in the bathtub, before I absolutely HAVE to leave for work, you get the gist… but this one just didn’t hook me, like at all. I had to force myself to finish it, which is typical for me because I can’t leave a story unfinished.
I liked the idea of the story, the thought of a whodunnit story told from the eyes of children who decide the way to solve it is go on a search for God sounds like perfect parts of mystery and innocence, right? Unfortunately, for me this story just fell flat. The narrators (Grace, usually but not exclusively) just didn’t win me over and the whimsical part of the story, the search for God, seemed like an afterthought of the plot line at some points. Additionally, the characters I wanted to know more about just didn’t have enough of a role in the story.
I recognize that this story was well written and touched on some important topics in a playful and sneaky way, but I just couldn’t get in to it.
What I liked:
- That this book is set in another time period, I enjoyed reading from the eyes of a 10 year old in 1976 and letting this book take me back to England in the 70’s. I don’t know about anyone else, but I pictured this book as all occurring through what I will call the Wonder Years filter, for lack of a better description.
- That this book had a small feeling in that it was set in a neighborhood with a limited assortment of characters who were all very different, eclectic.
- That this book was a mystery inside of a mystery. Any author who can layer their mysteries well will keep me reading (albeit slowly, in this case).
- The fact that “the heat” was practically a character in this book. It spoke to me, sitting in sunny and super hot Phoenix while I read it.
What I didn’t like:
- To me Grace wasn’t that likeable, and she was the main narrator. She was a young girl, but not too young and pushy but not someone who really opened up in a vulnerable way.
- The lack of insight in to the neighborhood residents. To me the book revolved around the fact that this mystery took place in a neighborhood with a cast of varying characters, but I didn’t actually get enough back story or insight into the most interesting characters to me, I only got to see them through Grace’s eyes which was in a more shallow way than I wanted to.
- The underwhelming resolution in this book. So as not to spoil anything I won’t go further, but I found the ending to be a little disappointing.
- The search for God element of this plot, even in the elementary way it was introduced in the book, seemed forgotten eventually and it seems to me that was the big “sell” of this book and plot.
I give this book 2.5/5 stars. I started it, I finished it, I think there were some good lessons in the plot line along the way, but I just didn’t enjoy reading about what was seemingly multiple adult issues and plots through the eyes of Grace. The book was slow for me and ultimately lacking the climax I thought I was reading for. I really wanted Grace and Tilly to take me along on a charming investigation with a coming of age eureka ending and it just didn’t do that for me.
If this book were a movie:
I have no idea who would play in it and the fact that my imagination didn’t go there just reiterates to me that I wasn’t hooked on this book, but like I said – it would all be shot in a Wonder Years kind of style and the story I’m more interested in is – tell me the story through Mrs. Creasy’s eyes, please!
- Another new release and period piece set in England: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
- Another coming of age story with a child narrator: Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
- Another mystery told from the eyes of a child narrator and highly acclaimed book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- Another period book touching on topics surrounding adult tendencies and seemingly neighborhood dramas which are actually much more global issues, a book I read quite a while ago but still think about often: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
“I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and a life of their own. I had yet to realize that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you have let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owner of you.”
Grace’s description of her local library:
After my bedroom, this was my favourite place in the world. It was carpeted, and had heavy bookcases and ticking clocks and velvet chairs, just like someone’s living room. It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit. Each time, I lost myself in the corridors of books and the polished, wooden rooms, deciding which journey to go on next.
And the best description of that innocent pre-teen stage:
“My mother said I was at an awkward age. I didn’t feel especially awkward, so I presumed she meant that it was awkward for them.”
Have you read this book? What did you think? Any comments on this review or anything else you’d like to see included on the next one? Please take a moment to comment below, all comments will be read and received.