This is another quirky, readable book by a first time author. It was a birthday present from the Eldest of the Darling Daughters who hasn’t read it but thought, from the reviews, that it would be right up my street.
Which is an appropriate idiom, as it happens, because the central theme of the book is the secret life of the residents of The Avenue, a (hopefully) fictional road which
will have every reader wondering just what goes on behind the curtains of all their own neighbours’ houses. Only joking!
The story is told mostly from the
viewpoint of nine year old Grace who, with her best friend Tilly, seeks to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Mrs Margaret Creasy of Number 8 The Avenue, while at the same time looking for God, having been assured by the local vicar that he is “everywhere”,
sorting out in Biblical terms, the sheep from the goats - hence the title of the book.
If you like neat endings, with everything explained, then this book may
have you howling with frustration. The reason why Margaret Creasey disappeared is hardly credible, at least one of the secrets unveiled is a deliberate and rather horrific crime which will presumably go unpunished, and God is “revealed” in a most
mysterious way. Some of the darker events recounted seem to get lost in the overall narrative, almost as if they are after thoughts rather than the events which shaped a person’s later actions. But forget all that - this is a book to suspend disbelief
and just enjoy, especially young Grace’s acute and funny observations on life. The narrative flips between 1976 (with very evocative descriptions of that long, hot summer which those, like me, of a Certain Age will remember so well) and 1967 which can
be a trifle confusing and the best chapters are definitely those narrated by Grace.
However it was the friendship between Grace and Tilly which captivated me most.
The author perfectly captured how the relationship between two close friends is never as clear-cut as it may seem - that the confident one may be every bit as reliant on the more apparently reticent partner. It reminded me in some ways of my relationship with
my own Little Sister, where, despite being the older, I was every bit as dependent on her, as she was on me. Perhaps that’s why I could recognise the essence of the girls’ friendship so well and why, for me, it was the most believable relationship
of the whole story.
For everyone who likes their books quirky, different and full of larger than life characters.