Thursday, November 28, 2019


Dovetail. Karen McQuestion. 2020. [March] 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Time has a way of evening things out. I was beautiful once, turning heads and garnering admiring glances, but now I would not stand out in a group of my peers.

Premise/plot: Joe Arneson, our hero, is a reluctant patient at Trendale Psychiatric Treatment Center. He’s been having vivid nightmares, recurring nightmares, four of them. Doctors are stumped. His family is stumped. Joe feels that since the doctors are clueless and therapy clearly isn’t working, he should be able to leave. When the novel opens, he’s about to be released into the care of his Grandma. The problem? Joe has always believed that his grandma was dead. But Grandma Pearl is very much alive...though she is dying. She wants to hire Joe to clean up, clean out her house so it can be sold. He’s confused but willing. His time at the family home will bring him much closer to the woman running the local secondhand store/shop. The summer of 1983 may prove unforgettable.

My thoughts: This mystery-thriller has two time settings: 1983 and 1916. The 1916 story focuses on the tension between Pearl and her older sister, Alice, as Alice falls in love for the first (and only) time. Their father has hired a young man, John Lawrence, for the summer. Pearl thinks that she is a thousand times more beautiful than her sister, so the new guy in town should fall madly in love with her...if not at first sight, soon thereafter. But. John only has eyes for the sweet and selfless Alice. Is all fair in love and war?!

Pearl ties these two stories together—in a way. Though Joe and his nightmares are crucial to putting the two halves together.

I read this one quickly—perhaps two days. The short chapters kept me reading at a steady pace giving at least the illusion of great suspense. But is the book truly suspenseful or is it predictable? Does it matter if it is predictable? I think the story idea isn’t unoriginal. I liked that it was set in the past—1916 and 1983. I could see where the story was heading very early on. Perhaps a third of the way through. Once you’ve pieced one piece of the puzzle in place, it’s obvious what will unfold in both stories. But. Knowing didn’t stop me from reading and reading quickly. Even though I felt I knew every twist and turn coming. It was like being on your favorite roller coaster ride. You know exactly what is ahead, but it’s still an enjoyable experience worth standing in line for.

I have tried to avoid spoilers in my review. I don’t know if I’d recommend reading the jacket flap either. The more you can delay knowing, the more you may enjoy it. But you may be like me and enjoy it regardless. Perhaps surprising twists and turns are overrated.

“Tell Pearl what you told me. About the joints that hold it together.” She set Daisy down and ran her fingers over the corner of the chest. She looked up at Pearl. “They’re called dovetail joints. Dovetail. Doesn’t that sound beautiful?” “I guess.” Their father said, “The sides of the hope chest are connected using dovetail joints. The edges are cut in a pattern, so one side slides into the other. Wide tails and narrow pins are what they’re called. It works almost like this.” He clasped his hands together, fingers interwoven. “Once the two pieces are glued together, the place where they’re joined is stronger than the wood itself. Your mother always thought it was perfect for a hope chest, because when a couple is married, they are stronger together than they were when separate.” As so often happened when he mentioned their mother, emotion overcame him. “It’s very difficult to break the connected pieces once they’re locked in place. A dovetail joint can stand the test of time.”

I’ve long believed that no one should be judged on the worst thing they’ve ever done. And not on the best thing either, for that matter.” She sighed. “Human beings are much more complex than one event that happened on one day in a very long life.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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