Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: drugs, sexuality, mortality, death.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars


I happened to pick up this book up out of a stack in a local Peddlar’s Mall for one dollar. The cover looked interesting, and it had the American Library Association’s Best Adult Genre Fiction seal of approval on the front. I flipped it over to the description on the back, and was surprised to note that the setting takes place in little ol’ Vermont, my home state. Moments like that- browsing for nothing in particular, casually exploring my relatively new surroundings, and still managing to find something that brings me back to my roots- never cease to amaze me. At the risk of sounding traitorous to my new state, Vermont will always be home, no matter what my address is. Therefore, this book was going to go be mine- and I almost felt like it was meant to be.

In Every Last Cuckoo, we are introduced to main character Sarah, a seventy-five year old woman who was living with her eighty year old husband, Charles. He was a doctor, a man who wanted to help people and his community, and earn an honest living. She was a modern housewife, who enjoyed intellectual conversations with her strong, whip-smart friends and husband. It was a steady and happy marriage, though there were plenty of obstacles to overcome: the loss of a child and depression that followed; the growing pains of raising three children; the struggles with intimacy as they aged. After decades of time spent together, Sarah is reminiscent of their relatively simple and routine lives, especially as their family and friends come together over the winter holidays. But then tragedy happens- Charles is hurt in a hiking accident, and Sarah becomes a widow. She finds herself wondering how she can possibly live her normal life without Charles in it, especially when all their memories flood to the forefront of her mind.

A typical VT scene- mountains, a little farm…

Slowly, Sarah starts to find peace with her sudden loss, and is determined to live the rest of her life in a way that would have made Charles and her young, ambitious self proud. She takes nature walks with Charles’ Nikon, trying to see through his eyes, and works in her garden as she contemplates her past and present. She is asked by her daughter to take in a boarder who would live in their little ‘vacation’ cabin in the back of their property, to which she agrees. Then, she takes in her teenage granddaughter, Lottie, who is having troubles with her overbearing mother. After some time, Lottie asks if a few of her friends can also move in to help settle their problems at home, and Sarah agrees. Then, a family in need also moves in. Soon, she realizes that this was what she was meant to do with the rest of her life- take care of others. With her house full, Sarah realizes that she is feeling stronger and more fulfilled- and more like the person she’s always wanted to be. In turn, her boarders become a blended family that care for her, help her make amends in wounded relationships, and heal her broken heart.

I personally don’t think I’m doing this novel justice in my summary, although I tried to, because it’s so much more complex than I can describe. Maloy has woven the story lines together so beautifully, and allowed all these tiny but pure details to bubble to the surface at the most exact and perfect time. Sarah is such a dynamic character, and she actually reminds me a lot of my spunky Grandma Rain! I also loved the setting, it’s spot on the Vermont I know and love. Overall, it’s honest, touching, and clever. I highly recommend Every Last Cuckoo. I actually think I’m going to try and find another copy to give to my grandma, and the copy I have is going right back on my bookshelf.

Published: May 12, 2009

Publisher: Algonquin Books

TL/DR: Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy is a general fiction novel about what it means to be family, to love, and finding your purpose.

Read it? Yes!

Recommend it? Absolutely.

Buy it?  Yes! Heck, I already need another copy to share!

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Categories: Book Review, Contemporary, Family Drama, Fiction, General, Vermont Reads

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