Oslo, Maine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Marcia Butler, 2021

This review starts with a caveat: the moose’s presence in this novel is not a quirky, funny plot device like the moose that strolls into town in the TV series “Northern Exposure.” Instead, the book opens with a depiction of animal suffering that was so well-written that I was furious with the author for shoving this imagery into my brain. I seriously considered stopping right there and not giving any feedback. Instead I turned up the narration speed and blasted through the opening.

This story of the Roys, the Kimbroughs, and the Sibleys is pretty standard fare – family conflicts, convenient surprise plot twists. Still, the story is engaging, and I attribute this to Butler’s excellent character development.

Claude and Celine Roy, parents of the child Pierre, have their faults. Either of them could have been painted purely as a villain but instead, the author presents them in their completeness; they love each other, they fail each other, they fail Pierre, they love Pierre.  They fail themselves. Pierre is the character around whom the entire novel revolves; he is painted with skill and compassion.

Jim and Sandra Kimbrough also have backstories, and their marriage is complex.  Jim has his faults.  The character we know the less about is Sandra; although certainly human in her emotions, she is an observer rather than a participant. Claude refers to her as the saint, and Claude and I are in agreement. (Sandra bears a remarkable resemblance to the author, herself a musician and, based on her public photos, similar in appearance to Sandra.)

We know less about the Sibleys, who are necessary and convenient characters with secrets of their own.

Narrator Charlie Thurston is a bright spot in this audiobook; his narration is unhurried and rings true. Volume is consistent.

Thank you to NetGalley and Highbridge Audio for providing me with an ARC in return for my honest review.