The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is the debut novel by Joanna Cannon, published by Scribner. This follows the adventures of Grace and Tilly as they attempt to discover why their neighbour Mrs. Creasy has disappeared. Their innocent explorations uncover the secrets of the entire village…
This wasn’t at all what I expected. For one, the blurb that I received on NetGalley made no mention of how much the novel talks about Christianity. The main plot has to do with Grace and Tilly trying to find God in a very literal way – they look in every house on their street! However, having talked to my Christian flatmate, I’ve been told that the parable of the goats and sheep in the Bible is pretty well-known. So this might just be down to my general lack of Bible knowledge, but still. I went into the novel expecting something very different.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I thought that the coming-of-age parts of the story were very sweet without being too saccharine or stereotypical. They merged very well with the mystery of Mrs. Creasy and the search for God, as they all made distinct points about the potential power of the righteous, as well as the power of the hive mind. I was really impressed with the ways that these storylines intersected, especially as this is a debut novel. It was very sophisticated, so props to Cannon.
Because the main protagonist was Grace (who I assume is about 12), there are various chapters from various adults’ point-of-view. This created really great dramatic irony, as the reader is really the only one who knows what is really going on, and why. The most interesting character, in my mind, was Mr. Creasy, as he was so fundamentally misunderstood by the other characters. The others depict him as a stereotypical abandoned husband, but once we enter his point-of-view, he really comes into his own. He definitely had some level of Aspergers or OCD, which really made me feel for him. In a village of bland characters, he really stood out.
Whether you’re a goat or a sheep, I think that you would enjoy this novel – naively poignant, it makes very interesting points about childhood and the violent nature of assuming your own morality.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep will be published 12 July 2016.