Doucette's genial, leisurely novel feels like a throwback to the squeaky clean science fiction of the mid-20th century.
Though marketed toward adults, this book would seem just as much at home in the young adult section. Its 16-year-old heroine, Annie Collins, is the smartest and most capable person in her little mill town in western Massachusetts, with the possible exception of her odd, home-schooled best friend, Violet. Annie is also probably the one who knows the most about the spaceship that landed in a nearby field in Sorrow Falls three years ago and has been sitting there ever since, observed with dismay and interest by the military and a group of “alien watchers” camped out in RVs equipped with surveillance equipment as close to the ship as the military will allow. Annie, whose personal life includes a mother dying of cancer and a semirequited crush on a young soldier with a lot of time on his hands, is recruited by a mysterious newcomer to help him get to know the town; Ed Somerville calls himself a journalist, but he seems to have connections to the military. Doucette (The Frequency of Aliens, 2017, etc.) takes his time advancing the plot, which finally picks up its pace in the last quarter of the book, when soldiers and townspeople, both alive and long dead, start behaving like zombies, leaving most of the novel's named characters to grab some wheels and head toward the spaceship in hopes of placating its inhabitants. The science behind the fiction is largely unconvincing, and Doucette's dialogue is often clunky and overloaded with exposition. But the town is vividly realized and described, and its physical and social reality helps ground the more unlikely elements of the story in a sense of place. Doucette's dry sense of humor and obvious affection for his characters go a long way toward compensating for the novel's meandering progress.
Not so much a vision of a complicated future as a warmhearted ode to a simpler time and place in a community so small that everybody knows everybody else's business.