Book Review: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon

When I started this book, I told a colleague that I was predisposed to dislike it because the first few chapters are told from the perspective of 10-year-old Grace. Too charming for me, I thought.

I stuck with it though, and I am glad. There are many reasons why this is showing up on many summer reads lists. It is a multi-layered, cleverly constructed story about community and coming-of-age.

The central mystery is the inexplicable disappearance of Mrs. Creasy, an elderly woman, and the sufferings of her husband while he waits for her to return. However, there are other, smaller mysteries, such as the brief kidnapping of a baby, a case of arson, and some unknown crime of a group of neighbors – something they discuss frequently without ever letting the reader get an idea of what exactly it was. These mysteries reveal themselves through the perspectives of Grace and six other characters on the street as they tell their parts of the story. All of them have their own secrets, but not necessarily the ones you are led to believe.

Grace and her invalid friend Tilly decide that they will conduct their own investigation of Mrs. Creasy’s disappearance by interviewing everyone in the neighborhood, even the most reviled neighbor (hinted to be a pedophile) that lives in the shadows for most of the book. Grace and Tilly’s story evolves into a very bittersweet coming-of-age tale. In the process, Grace’s character becomes so much more than the too cute/too precocious/yet still innocent narrator we meet at the beginning of the book.

Emma Healy from The Guardian subtitled her review of the book “a secret history of suburbia.” She attributes its success to the fact that in it “nothing and nobody is perfect, and the explanations aren’t too neat, either; instead, the various characters’ histories come together to form a vibrant whole.” Her final verdict: “Full of humour and careful depictions of everyday suffering, this is not so much a mystery novel as an investigation into the wealth of secrets and heartbreak that even the most commonplace street can hold.” I couldn’t agree more.

To request a copy, click here.

Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian

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