This was the library book club read at my local library, and there was an audio book available so I thought I’d try it.
Stats: Published March 2021, 384 pages (hc), audio book – 9 discs narrated by George Newbern.
Blurb: Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.
Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.
A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.
What I liked: It is a great story. The characters – primary and secondary too – are all very real and Whitaker does a great job with the setting, even though he’s never been in Montana or California (he’s from England), though from other reviews I’ve seen, he doesn’t get some English usage correct (which I missed listening to the book). And we really care for this teenager – Dutchess (I wonder why that name). It’s kind of a complex story – lots of pieces and characters in play – which helps make it difficult to figure out who done it. The twist at the end is perfect and resolved perfectly too, since he’s dealing with a teenager. Newberg does a good job with the narration.
What I didn’t like: The writing style can be a bit too choppy and poetic for my taste – feels like he’s trying a bit too hard. When he does it a lot, (and the whole piece isn’t written this way but much of it is) it is a distraction for me rather than adding to the story. Duchess may hang onto her “outlaw” mask a bit long for a teen. But maybe because of her gruff personality, she’s been sheltered from other teens so hasn’t grown out of her persona, maybe. There is also no mention of social media. I find that odd. It isn’t needed for the story, of course, and I’m not exactly sure when this story is supposed to have taken place but if it’s present time, it just seems odd when dealing with a teen. I also don’t understand Duchess running far away, then suddenly she is back home. It made me wonder if I missed a disc (that I was listening to) but I don’t think I did. And maybe I’m dense but I don’t understand the title. Whitaker has Duchess’s grandfather say this to her and even in context I don’t get it.