THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP by Joanna Cannon

THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a small-town cul-de-sac in rural England, preteen Grace and her friend Tilly set out to find God. What they unknowingly uncover is an ugly neighborhood secret.

Cannon’s debut novel opens with the disappearance of the avenue’s friendliest resident, Mrs. Creasey. Puzzled and worried, Grace approaches the church vicar, who responds with cliché—God knows everyone’s whereabouts. As Grace and Tilly search, Cannon’s story is driven by the two girls intruding into an adult world, sometimes tentatively, sometimes brazenly. The novel is primarily set in the scorching summer of 1976, with flashbacks to events in 1967. The two threads merge to create an ominous, near-threatening aura, an oblique narrative haunted by things unsaid and shadowed references. Precocious Grace and fragile Tilly are well-nuanced protagonists, with a majority of chapters told from Grace’s point of view. Cannon gives Grace a perceptive, insightful personality, as when she walks through a cemetery feeling "all the bones that were buried there had made wisdom grow in the soil" or when she and Tilly approach a schoolyard "where we dissolved into a spill of other children." Although dominated by Grace, Tilly is strong enough to be kinder and more empathetic. Adults scurry through the story, with blowsy Sheila Dakin forever sunning herself on her front lawn or the young widower Eric Lamb constantly nipping at a perfect garden or Walter Bishop resting uneasily at the heart of the secret. Ripe with symbolism and metaphor—hypocrisy and rationalization reign when Tilly discovers Drainpipe Jesus, an apparition—Cannon’s sometimes-amorphous novel is a subjective sociological study with the air of a cozy mystery.

A thoughtful tale of loyalty and friendship, family dynamics and human nature, and the cancer of buried truths.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2189-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016




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