At BookTrib, we are constantly searching for the best ways to connect readers with writers, opening their eyes and worlds to fresh ideas! This is how we came across a wonderful group known as the Tall Poppies, who are not only avid readers, but extremely talented writers as well! This week Sandra Block reviews the latest by Kate Moretti, The Blackbird Season.
“The smaller the town, the bigger the secrets.” So reads the tag-line of Kate Moretti’s haunting and gorgeous The Blackbird Season.
Some taglines may be misleading or grandiose, but this one is right on target.
After the paper mill closes, the small town embarks on a slow, ignominious death. Even shut down, the factory is still killing the town, expelling arsenic which eventually causes blackbirds to drop dead right out of the sky (and lending the book its appropriately spooky name). The isolated town not only provides a perfect “ghost story” setting, but also an unnerving backdrop of tribalism, the “us vs. them” mentality that pervades the book, mixing up the heroes and the villains.
The book revolves around a teacher and a young woman. Nathan, the teacher, is solidly in the “us” category, born-and-bred in town while Lucia, the female student, is definitely the “other.” With white hair and pale skin, she is not just “weird” in the colloquial high school sense, she’s almost other-worldly, ghostly. Kids call her a witch behind her back, and the teachers don’t correct them. Lucia is not only out of place in the town, she’s been abandoned there. Her mother left years ago; her father recently ran off, and now her brother is lost to drugs. She has only a best friend and high school crush, and neither seem to be working out right now. Naturally, she confides in her favorite teacher, who just wants to help.
But when Lucia goes missing, whispers fly about an inappropriate relationship between the two. At once, golden boy Nathan loses his job as well as his firm footing in the “us” category. He is suddenly, uncomfortably an outsider. He claims that this is all a big misunderstanding, but with the evidence mounting up, his wife (herself an outsider from “big city, bright lights Philly…missing that Pennsyl-tucky twang”) doesn’t even know who to believe.
The suspense is real. Where is Lucia? Did Nathan sleep with her? Did he kill her?
In a climactic final scene in the torn-up factory, strewn with shards of glass and broken-down machinery, we find out the answer. The truth involves the usual suspects – love and jealousy – but even more, a judgment about who’s in and who’s out, and ultimately, who belongs.
In the end, the town must pick up the broken pieces and put them back together, recasting their heroes and villains. They must try to rebuild a home that may be small, but is still big enough to fit everyone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of four novels and a novella, including Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, Binds That Tie, The Vanishing Year, and The Blackbird Season. Her first novel Thought I Knew You, was a New York Times bestseller. The Vanishing Year was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards Mystery/Thriller category for 2016 and was called “chillingly satisfying,” (Publisher’s Weekly) with “superb” closing twists (New York Times Book Review). Kate has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for twenty years as a scientist and enjoys traveling and cooking. She lives in Pennsylvania in an old farmhouse with her husband, two children and no known ghosts. Her lifelong dream is to find a secret passageway.