The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

A Novel

Book - 2016
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When their neighbor disappears, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly start looking for God in the hopes that if they find Him they might also find their neighbor and bring her home.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2016
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781501121890
Characteristics: 353 pages ; 22 cm


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sapl3 Apr 09, 2020


“Mrs. Creasey disappeared on a Monday.” And so begins this delightfully funny, colorful story of a group of neighbors on the avenue and the secrets and lies that both bind and separate them. Grace and Tilly, two ten year olds, decide that if they can find God, then Mrs. Creasey will come home. So they go door to door, “looking for God”, but what they find is a conspiracy of silence which is slowly unravelling with the disappearance of their neighbour.

Oblique references are made to events that happened nine years ago – the kidnapping of a child, and an arson and he residents of the avenue believe that Mrs. Creasey’s disappearance is linked to these events and that she’s about to reveal the truth.

Grace and Tilly, unlike each other as chalk and cheese, are spunky and thoughtful and will make you laugh as they go door-to-door on their mission. Slowly and without realizing it, these amateur detectives are helping bring the lies and secrets of the avenue to the surface.

Aug 29, 2019

This is a delightful book, definitely worth reading for the descriptive use of the language alone. It's also funny, at times laugh-out-loud, in a dry British sense. The two little girl characters are a bit too wise for their years, but the adult characters are wrapped up in their own small-minded concerns in a believable way. This is a wonderful debut novel that promises good things to come from this author!

Jul 08, 2019

It was an incredibly hot summer in 1976. So hot that secrets seem to have trouble staying put.

Joanna Cannon has a gift for storytelling. There is a fine balance between being able to place you in the scene, allowing the reader to have some input without over-describing things. She allows the reader to immerse themselves, revealing things at a pace that keeps you turning the pages. But she doesn't allow the secrets to overtake the story or the characters to become cliches.

This may be hard to believe, but this is Joanna Cannon's debut novel. Her second novel, "Three Things About Elsie" is another fantastic story that I recommend highly. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Mar 20, 2019

I am sharply conflicted about "The Trouble with Goats and Sheep".

On one hand, I adored the story of the young, pre-teen girls, trying to make sense of their world by looking for Jesus and trying to sort His sheep and goats. I think the writing of "The Trouble with Goats and Sheep" in regard to the girls is vivid and absolutely superb:

"... because I knew my mother was sometimes perfectly capable of embroidering a whole evening of arguing out of absolutely nothing at all."

Regarding the library: "After my bedroom, this was my favorite place in the world. It was carpeted, and had heavy bookcases and ticking clocks and velvet chairs, just like someone's living room. It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit. Each time, I lost myself in the corridors of books and polished, wooden rooms, deciding which journey to go on next."

At a funeral looking for a hint where to find Jesus: "I stared past the vicar to Enid's coffin, and thought of the ninety-eight years which lay inside. I wondered if she'd thought of them too, alone on her sitting room carpet, and I hoped perhaps that she had. I thought about how she'd be carried from the church and through the graveyard, past all the Ernests and the Mauds and the Mabels, and how ninety-eight years would be put inside the ground, for dandelions to grow across her name. I thought about the people who would forever walk past her, on their way to somewhere else. People at weddings and christenings. People taking a shortcut, having a cigarette. I wondered if I would ever stop and think about Enid and her ninety-eight years, and I wondered if the world would have a little remembering left for her."

Regarding sorting the goats and sheep: "But I don't understand," whispered Tilly. "How does God know which people are goats and which people are sheep?" . . . "I think that's the trouble," I said, it's not always that easy to tell the difference."

On the other hand, I hated every single adult in the story. I hated attempting to get to know them and the tortured, laborious writing about them, their secrets and their slights, real, imagined and all blown out of proportion. Their combined story and their individual stories veered off into far too many blind alleys and made the whole thing a tangled yarn of words difficult to read and about which it became impossible for me to care.

I'm having trouble reconciling such exquisite writing with such an awful sub-story. It took me 10 days (TEN DAYS!) to read "The Trouble with Goats and Sheep". Thank God I'm finally done with it.

Jan 24, 2019

I enjoyed this but thought it was too long in the middle, and its message was too simplistic.

Jan 26, 2018

Part whodunnit, part coming of age, beautiful use of metaphor and great commentary on the foibles of humanity, especially the need to find the bad in others rather than in oneself.

Katherine_A Feb 09, 2017

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is an engaging historical fiction story that takes place in the 1970's. It's a long unseasonably hot summer in England. The cul-de-sac of the neighborhood the story takes place in is filled with quirky characters. The ten year old characters, Tilly and Grace, really make the story. They are hilarious in how they go about searching for their missing neighbor Mrs. Creasy. If you like an off beat story with fun characters and neighborhood dynamics, this story is for you.

Oct 13, 2016

I just loved this book from start to finish. Beautiful writing with insight into the herd mentality.
The primary characters are unfolded slowly throughout the story.

jabberbooky Sep 23, 2016

I found this quirky and amusing. The writing truly is gorgeous. Just stick with it, it's worth it.

Jul 19, 2016

I wanted to give this 5 stars because of her lovely way with words, but unfortunately the story was confusing and far too long. I was ready for it to end at 350pp but on and on it went.

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