Oslo, Maine

Highbridge Audio. Mar. 2021. 7:27 hrs. ISBN 9781696602969. $39.99. F
Butler (The Skin Above My Knee) draws listeners away from the tourist-filled Northeastern coast to inland Maine—where cruise ships and lobster pounds give way to paper mills and lakes—and a small town first observed through the eyes of a pregnant moose. It is through this moose, and the shock of her first encounter with people, that Butler introduces us to the human residents of Oslo. In particular, we follow the intertwined stories of seven people, some “from away” and others from a long line of Mainers. At the center of the story is 12-year-old Pierre who has lost his memory following an accident, but the lives of the other six characters are also fully developed and nuanced. In writing about Maine locals, there is a danger that an author will fall into stereotypes, but that is not the case here. Each of Butler’s characters is complex, perhaps occasionally bordering on caricature but never tipping over into it; the result is a novel that deftly and movingly explores class and culture as well as human flaws and strengths. Butler takes a big risk, but one that pays off in narrative depth, by including the moose’s point of view as well. The creature is as much a character as the people, but Butler avoids the pitfall of making her more human than animal.
VERDICT Well-narrated by Charlie Thurston, this is a compelling, character-driven novel that thoroughly engages the listener.
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