The Blackbird Season
By: Kate Moretti
Publication Date: 9/26/2017
My Rating: 4.5 Stars (ARC) Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.
“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alicia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters
investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alicia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.
Told from the alternating points of view of Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.
Kate Moretti returns following The Vanishing Year, landing on my Top 50 Books of 2016, with her latest THE BLACKBIRD SEASON – a scandal rocks a town with dark chilling secrets. An emotionally charged exploration of a family and community in crisis.
Haunting, complex, twisty, mysterious, and suspenseful — Moretti style.
The whodunit suspense will keep you glued to the pages. The excellent writing, well-developed characters, and crafty plot will keep you entertained and absorbed.
“The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying." —from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Wallace Stevens
Nate Winters and his wife Alecia are well respected in the small quiet town of Mount Oanoke, Pennsylvania. A dying mill town, the people living in this small community have their struggles. Baseball is one highlight of their town.
Nate is a math teacher and baseball coach, well loved by all. A hero to many. Alecia, a former career woman, is now a stay at home mom with their 5-year-old autistic son, Gabe.
Things are quite tense in their relationship, marriage, and household. Of course, with Gabe, her plate is full. Alecia is consumed with his care and often resentful of her husband who spends time at school and on the ballfield helping others.
Alecia is miserable, bitter, angry, and sad. She has little time left over for her husband with a special needs child. Her only friend is Bridget.
Told from alternating points of view: Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget.
Bridget is a creative writing teacher at the school and a co-worker of Nate. She believes in him. She lost her husband to cancer the previous year. They had all been good friends. Of course, as teachers of high school students, a difficult task; there is always drama—they are self-absorbed glued to their phones, or bullying someone.
Lucia is a senior at the high school. She is an eccentric teen, loner and everyone thinks is weird. A witch? A difficult childhood. She is in a writing class led by Bridget. Bridget feels uncomfortable with Lucia. She has no friends. She writes of death and dying.
“Lucia tackled pain and death clinically, a biology lab dissection. She sees birds. She says they come to her and she knows bad things will happen.” Entries in her journal.
She is exotic with unsettling beauty. Crazy white hair, black-rimmed eyes, and red lips. She has a brother, Lenny, and dropout and a father Jimmy who had skipped town. Is she evil? She has obsessions with blackbirds, ravens, and crows. She reaches out to Nate for help.
How could this pillar of the community— father, husband, teacher, leader, and friend —Nate, find himself in trouble? He would be fired. Everyone would call him a murderer. They would accuse him of an affair. OR a student who came on to Nate and he rejected her —set out for revenge?
A thousand starlings fell from the sky. Not fluttering to the earth, but plummeting. Hard and fast in the middle of the third inning of the opening day at Mt. Oaknoke High field.
Then the pandemonium. A cloud of blackbirds, thousands of them. The entire thing lasted less than three minutes. 911 was called, and everyone wondered where they came from. Why did they fall? What did it mean?
After the falling which everyone thinks is a bad omen, everything bad begins happening. Nate is accused of having an affair. A motel. A reporter. He is fired. Did Nate have a flair for girls in need or was he innocent? A girl goes missing. Fingers are pointed.
A marriage and a town are torn apart. However, is Nate to blame or someone else? Is he being set up and if so whom? Is Lucia a victim or menace? An intriguing character.
A slow-burning gripping tale, both haunting, spellbinding, and disturbing.
A cautionary suburban crime story sprinkled with supernatural elements. The unsettling atmosphere gives a strong sense of fearful apprehension or darkness lurking. Foreboding, suspicion, and unease —a feeling that something bad will happen; a dark cloud.
What lies beneath those dark clouds?
Moretti delves deep into the lives of these flawed characters. Loss and danger—an ongoing theme. From the loss of a spouse, marriage, love, job, trust, and a town. From teens to adults. Bullying. Everyone has an opinion. With an array of emotions. Jealousy and obsession.
Marriage, parenting, infidelity. Expectations. The wide variation in challenges, strains, and strengths of a special needs child with autism; the complex developmental disability, and the caregivers. The strains it can bring to a marriage.
Guilt or Innocence. Good or Evil. Black and white magic. From malicious acts to loyalty and friendship. Self-discovery or destruction. Denial or obsession. A compelling complex book of contrasts, relationships, and expectations with shades of gray.
The symbolic meaning of blackbirds is eternally linked to the "dark vs light" phases of the moon similar to the character’s lives. Blackbirds and birds of black or dark colors are special among their airy clan as they are symbolic of mystery, magic, secrets, and the unknown.
The blackbird teaches you how to acknowledge your power and use it to its fullest. While the crow or blackbird can play the trickster, they are usually benevolent and bring news of good passage and protection.
The condition of the town with its ups and downs and tragedy, as well as the claustrophobic, toxic, bleak, and creepy outlook— also parallels to the character’s lives. Would make for an ideal selection for book clubs and further discussions.
Fans of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, Paula Treick Deboard, T. Greenwood, and Lisa Scottoline’s One Perfect Life (also set in Pennsylvania), will enjoy this emotional thriller.
THE BLACKBIRD SEASON also gave me the chills (psychologically) as so, when watching The Birds, (a 1963 American horror-thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock) as a child—this one did give me nightmares for weeks.
Would love to learn more about the author’s inspiration for this unique book. Hats off to the author for courageously tackling this storyline with so many moving parts. Hint: (an interview Q&A is in order).
A very special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
Have also pre-ordered the audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell (My favorite narrator), Gibson Frazier, Joy Osmanski, Rebekah Ross. Look forward to listening!
Praise for The Blackbird Season
"Moretti's tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed.” - Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"This cautionary tale keeps the reader guessing to the end." – Publishers Weekly
"The tale’s suspenseful core should catch and hold most readers, especially Gone Girl fans." – Booklist
"A suspenseful mystery about small-town secrets and scandals." – PopSugar
"Kate Moretti rests her finger on the pulse of people in crisis, telling their story beautifully and honestly. She has a true gift." – Lisa Turner, author of Devil Sent the Rain and The Gone Dead Train
"The Blackbird Season pulls off a very difficult thing: it's nail-biting and thought-provoking all at once. It's a rare that a book can make you turn pages like your life depends on it, but also give you food for thought because the characters are so perfectly drawn. A stunning achievement from an extremely talented writer." – Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew
“A powerful story about a missing girl and an accused suspect that takes a haunting look into the characters and relationships you think you know. The Blackbird Season explores the fine line between guilt and innocence, truth and perception, the moments that break people apart—and those that bring them together. Riveting and insightful, this is a book that lingers long after you turn the final page.” - Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls
"Moretti begins The Blackbird Season with a sinister premise — a cloud of birds fall from the sky on the same day a teenage girl people call ‘the witch’ goes missing. A spellbinding tale of long-held secrets and small-town scandal, The Blackbird Season is one of those stories that sneaks up on you, each chapter building steadily to an ending that will haunt you long after you turn the last page." – Kimberly Belle, bestselling author of The Marriage Lie
"The characters are authentically flawed and believable, and part of the mystery is the unfolding of their motivations…The Blackbird Season is about how people—teens and adults alike—get lost and disconnected. All that, plus a suspenseful mystery—what more can you ask for?" – Holly Brown, author of Don't Try to Find Me
"When a troubled teenaged girl goes missing in The Blackbird Season, the town in which she lives is ripped apart by suspicion. As disturbing secrets bubble to the surface, no one is safe. Kate Moretti’s trademark vivid characterizations, surprising storyline, and heart-stopping suspense kept me eagerly turning pages long into the night." – Carla Buckley, author of The Good Goodbye
About the Author
Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, and Binds That Tie. Her newest novel, The Vanishing Year will be available fall 2016. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life. She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway. Read More