Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important questions arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and the pages of that journal.
The Blackbird Season has one of the creepiest openings I’ve ever come across, and while there were some slow periods and I thought the mystery was a bit predictable, it’s a great look at small town life and an interesting character study.
Please be warned there’s a lot of social issues examined that could be triggers for some readers including bullying, self-harm, drug abuse, poverty and rape. These are not gratuitously written in, but instead are layered in to the complicated tapestry that makes up this town.
Mount Oanoke, a small Pennsylvania mill town is your typical small town Americana, and depicts both the best and worst of living in rural areas. On the one hand, there’s less crime and people look out for one another. On the other, residents are gossipy, judgemental, and they’re losing their young people who flee to greener pastures as soon as they graduate.
The story is told from the perspective of the four main characters: Nate, Alecia, Bridget and Lucia. Except for Bridget, none of these characters are one-hundred percent likable, although in the end I did wind up feeling sympathetic towards them, especially Lucia.
Nate is an ex-jock who at best shows some truly atrocious judgement and at worst is a neglectful father and husband. While I felt a modicum of sympathy for his predicament, his complete and utter cluelessness in regards to both his family and Lucia had me wanting to slap him more than once.
I initially disliked Nate’s wife, Alecia and frankly, found her to be kind of a witch. However, seeing her struggles trying to raise her five-year-old autistic son basically by herself, is heart wrenching and as the story unfolded I found myself appreciating what she was going through more.
Bridget is struggling herself having lost her husband to cancer the year before. She’s a loyal friend to both Nate and Alecia, and is one of the few adults who are truly concerned about Lucia.
And there’s eighteen-year-old Lucia. Just thinking of her even now, two days after I finished the book, brings me to tears. There’s no doubt she’s a prickly personality, and there are times that she certainly doesn’t do herself any favors, but she’s someone who from the beginning is never given a chance and watching what she goes through is heartbreaking.
The story itself is interesting and while I found the pace lagged at times, I still for the most part stayed engaged. While I wasn’t initially sure how the deaths of the blackbirds was related to the main plot, I liked the way the author managed to tie them in. I have mixed feelings regarding the ending though. While it answered the central mystery, there’s some side plots that I think could have been tied up a little more smoothly.
It probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Blackbird Season, But I actually did despite the issues I had with it. I would recommend this for not only fans of Kate Moretti’s previous books, but also readers who enjoy dark, multi-layered, slow-burning suspense.