book “review”: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
I don’t believe in “must-read” book lists — or in book reviews, per se — but I do love to offer suggestions. This novel is one of many I’ve read and adored, and that (like all the others here) I’ve found to be particularly engrossing, magical, relaxing, comforting, insightful, and beautifully written. If you haven’t yet read this one but would like to add it to your to-be-read pile, you can purchase a copy at one of the links below.
I picked up The Trouble with Goats and Sheep at the final, everything-must-go sale of a beloved local bookstore a while back. Despite my dislike for the reason behind the sale, I was determined to go (as soon as the doors opened, as AJ can attest) and bring home any interesting-looking books we could find.
We were among the first in line and in the door when it opened. AJ headed straight for the history section and the cookbooks, while I pored over the several tables’ worth of fiction.
Oftentimes, I’ll contemplate a book for a while before buying it. But with the crowd of people attending book-sale day, there was no time for lengthy contemplation. And at just $5 a pop for hardbacks, and $2 apiece for paperbacks, there wasn’t really any reason to hesitate, either.
So nearly any book that caught my eye as I perused the fiction tables — and then after a closer look, made me think, “Oooohhh” — went on the growing stack. (I walked away from that sale with eight novels for my to-read pile, one that a friend had recommended a week or so earlier, and seven I’d never heard of.)
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (by Joanna Cannon) secured a spot in that stack when I flipped open the front cover to read the blurb and saw, “Spunky, spirited [ten-year-old] Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door-to-door in search of clues …”
When I was about Grace and Tilly’s age, my best friend and I (probably after reading too many Nancy Drew books) were intent on solving a “mystery” that we had somehow dreamed up. We found “clues” everywhere: a mysterious-looking person, a dead bird. I have no recollection of what the mystery may have been that we were trying to solve, or what we were searching for, but I do remember talking my dad into letting us dig a huge hole in the yard to look for … clues, treasure? I don’t know. But we certainly enjoyed the thrill of our made-up adventure, and Grace and Tilly’s story called to me as I stood at the bookstore sale and flashed back to my ten-year-old self.
I was again reminded of my younger, bookish, self when (on page 122), “Mrs. Morton pushed the library door, and Tilly and I ducked underneath her arm. After my bedroom, this was my favorite place in the world. … 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.”
There is definitely a mystery in these pages. And there is a complicated story of friendship, conformity, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and secrets. The characters are both awful and sympathetic, horrible and kind; in other words, fully human. And a few of these complex people are really quite wise.
I loved this book.
What was the last book you read that made you want to either cry or hold the book close and hug it?
Disclosure: If you follow one of my links to Bookshop.org — and if you buy a book from my storefront on the site — I receive a small percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. And a percentage of the sale is also added to the pool of funds that Bookshop.org distributes among independent brick-and-mortar bookstores. (In the website’s first year, that earnings pool already totals more than $10 million!)
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