cover image Every Last Cuckoo

Every Last Cuckoo

Kate Maloy, . . Algonquin, $22.95 (277pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-541-4

Maloy explored northern landscapes and Quaker faith in her memoir A Stone Bridge North ; she returns to both in her moving debut novel. When 75-year-old Sarah Lucas’s husband, Charles, succumbs to an injury at the peak of a particularly brutal Vermont winter, her worst later-life fears of physical mishap are realized. In grief, Sarah’s memories take her back to the Great Depression, when her parents generously opened their home to countless friends and relatives, and to her own regretted missteps as a parent. The chance to recreate the one experience and rectify the other arrives uninvited when a variety of lost souls—Sarah’s own teenage granddaughter; an Israeli pacifist; a devastated young mother and child—seek shelter and solace in Sarah’s too-empty home. The motley assortment of characters, many of whom have been touched by violence, deliver passionate apostrophes on peace and justice, and together Sarah and her boarders discover unseen beauty in the landscape, uncover hidden talents and develop a nurturing, healing community. Maloy’s wordplay and startling nature imagery enchant, but readers will have to decide if the spectacular climax, an expression of its characters’ principles in action, is out of place with the novel’s quiet thoughtfulness. (Jan.)