Stories set in the context of a family split are generally told from the perspective of one of the adults in the relationship, or from that of the child(ren) caught in the middle. Sandi Ward’s debut novel “The Astonishing Thing” employs a different voice: that of the family cat.
Admittedly, when I first read the concept of the novel my thought was that it would go something like this:
“Hoomin, feed me.”
“Medium hoomin, stop yelling at large hoomin – I am trying to nap.”
“Large hoomin hasn’t been around in a while. Oh well, someone feed me.”
~ Fin ~
Still, I decided to pick this novel for my debut Cannonball Read review as it seemed appropriate given my username. It was also on a promo sale, so if it was bad… no big loss.
New Year’s Day was freezing and snowing in my neck of the woods, the perfect time to curl up in a blanket (yes, with my cat; no, not on my head – in my lap) and tuck into this. Within 2 pages I knew this was not going to be anything like I assumed and before I knew it, almost 2 hours had passed and I was halfway through the book.
Ward’s protagonist is Boo, who was adopted by Mother at a young age. Boo loves Mother dearly and knows that they are soul-mates, even if she must be shared with Brother, Sister, Man and eventually Baby. Theirs is a happy existence, until one day Mother leaves and does not return.
On the journey that unfolds, Ward takes the reader through the early days of Boo’s uncertainty to her eventual re-examination of her beloved Mother. Boo’s journey is not that unlike the one many of us have taken as our families dissolve: we look back on memories through a new lens, we question past actions, we reconsider who the “bad guy” might really be…and even if there actually is one.
I am challenged writing this review, as I don’t want to give up too much of the story. Much of what I enjoyed about this novel was how Ward unraveled the story slowly, giving the reader glimpses of what may have happened until finally all the pieces come together. While the story may not be for everyone, I found it to be a well-crafted debut novel that told a typical story in a new way. I’ve hemmed and hawed over what star-rating to give The Astonishing Thing; I felt it was more than “a good book” but wasn’t sure if it would meet the CBR standard of “a great book”. The deciding factor for me was this: the story stuck with me after I read the last words. Yes, I felt the story wrapped up neatly, but I also found myself thinking back on the story hours and even days later. And that, for me, qualifies this for a “great” stamp.