The Blackbird Season: A Novel

The Blackbird Season: A Novel

by Kate Moretti

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Overview

The Blackbird Season: A Novel by Kate Moretti

“Exceptional...a deliciously sinister glimpse into the duplicity of small-town lives and the ease with which people turn on each other when tragedy comes calling. Moretti's tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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, Alecia, 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 Alecia 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 Alecia, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594921172
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 09/26/2017
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 315,958
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Find out more at KateMoretti.com or follow her on Twitter: @KateMoretti1 or Facebook: /KateMorettiWriter.

Read an Excerpt

The Blackbird Season


  • Nate, Monday, May 4, 2015: Two weeks after the birds fell

    The rain came in sheets, like a wall, forming wide rivulets down the windshield. The wipers swished and couldn’t keep up. They were old, needed to be replaced, and left streaks across the glass. But this was Alecia’s car and she hadn’t told him. His job was the maintenance, sure, but he wasn’t a mind reader. He smacked the lever up a notch.

    He squinted against any oncoming headlights, the few there were. Winding pavement and black towering pines combined with the lack of streetlights made this stretch of road, up into the Pocono Mountains, a hazard regardless of the season. The Lackawaxen River rushed by to his right, a mere fifty feet over a guardrail, engorged with the deluge of rain, more than typical for spring in Pennsylvania. He slowed to thirty miles an hour and leaned forward, his headlights bouncing off the white line, the yellow centerline almost invisible, faded with age.

    His phone rang, the display flashing. He ignored it. Could be Tripp, but he’d gotten into it with Alecia and she likely wanted to keep it going. He’d been so distracted he’d forgotten his pillow and would be stuck sleeping with a throw pillow on Tripp’s sofa, mildewed and lumpy. He wasn’t even sure the bag perched next to him on the passenger seat had enough to get him through the week. He’d been unfocused, just shoving things in: jeans, socks, underwear, shirts. Things you need when you have no job, no wife to go home to.

    The phone rang again and he took his eyes away from the road for a split second. Alecia. He almost picked up, but tightened his hands on the wheel. Pick it up, don’t pick it up? Her pecking and pulling at the threads of their marriage wasn’t new; it was as old as anything he could remember. She just had so much more to pull at now. Not just Gabe, although always, always Gabe.

    His headlights caught on a figure in the distance, a hand waving in the air, panicked. He slowed the car, pulled over, until he was next to her, hair plastered to pale cheeks, black clothing rendering her almost invisible in the night, had it not been for her gleaming white hair. He felt the cord of muscle up his arms tighten in a spasm. He rolled down the passenger-side window, but just a crack. Maybe two inches. He’d be damned if he was letting her into this car.

    “You’re going to get yourself killed. What the hell are you doing?”

    “I need help.” Her eyes were wild, wide and doll-like against her face, and her hands, red chipped fingernails, cupped her cheeks, pushing her hair back. Fingers wound up into that bright white hair at her temples and she shook her head back and forth and back and forth, like a dog shaking off water. That hair, a regular topic of conversation with the students, impossibly exotic but just so weird. Teenagers these days aimed to stand out, and that bright whiteness still gave them all pause.

    “I can’t help you. You know that.” There it was. He was finally, finally angry. Everyone had been asking him, are you angry? In an accusatory way, a way that really meant why aren’t you angry? As though this alone was proof of his guilt. He wanted to capture the moment, record his voice right now, because seeing her, finally, he realized he was really, really angry. “Get out of here, Lucia. Go home. Where you belong.”

    She leaned against the car so her mouth was even with the window opening, her body pushed against the window so he couldn’t see her eyes. Only that mouth, that lying little mouth. She wore a white T-shirt, soaked through, and he could see the outline of her nipples, pressed against the glass. Where was her jacket? It had to be fifty-five degrees. Not his problem. He looked away.

    “I don’t belong anywhere.” And when she leaned her forehead against the door trim, he could finally see her eyes. They were bloodshot and her pupils dilated like black Frisbees against a cerulean sky. Fear could dilate your eyes, he knew that for sure. Or was she on something? Pilfered from that brother of hers?

    He didn’t care.

    He picked up his phone. Pressed the numbers 911.

    “I can’t help you, Lucia. I’m calling the police and I won’t leave until they get here, but you cannot get in my car. I can’t do anything for you.” His voice was gentler than he’d intended. He’d always had a soft spot for her and those like her: the damaged, pretty girls. The smart girls with no guidance. The lost girls. There had been others; Robin Hendricks came to mind, but none who’d gotten him to this place before.

    He hit send. Ring. Ring. “Pike County Police Department.”

    “Hi. This is Nate Winters. I need help on Route Six.”

    “Sure, Mr. Winters, what appears to be the problem?”

    “I’m here with a Lucia Hamm. I was driving and I found her walking along the road. She might be on something but I can’t drive her anywhere. Just send someone, please.”

    She stared at him, her mouth twisting. She backed up slowly, away from the white line, her eyes narrowed at him, the side of her face illuminated by the headlights.

    “Lucia!” He called through the slight window opening. “Don’t you dare go anywhere. Stay right there.”

    She stepped around the front of the car, his hazard lights blinking red against her face. Her mouth curved up in a wicked smile and his insides coiled. She leaned forward, palms flat against the hood of his car, eyebrows arched seductively.

    “Mr. Winters?” The voice on the other end was deep and slow. “Is everything all right?”

    She blew him a kiss.

    He rolled his window down all the way and leaned out. “Lucia!” He called again, his voice dying in the wind.

    She turned and walked away, along the white line, the headlights of the car flanking her retreating figure. She wore a short, black skirt and knee-high boots, and her hips swayed.

    “Shit.” He ran his hand through his hair.

    “Mr. Winters? Are you still there?”

    She turned, then, maybe ten feet from the front of his car, braced her feet on either side of the white line and gave him two middle fingers. Then she cut right and ran into the woods.

    “Mr. Winters.” The man on the phone was stern now, angry about having his time wasted. “Are you still there? Do you still need someone to come out?”

    “I don’t know.” He felt sick. No matter what happened now, everything had just gotten worse. All the pieces he’d been clinging to had flown apart, scattering what was left of his life in a million directions. He was in trouble, he’d been in trouble, but now he was more than in trouble, he was as dead as a person could be while still being alive. In one heartbeat, he envisioned Alecia and Gabe huddled together on the couch, himself in prison, a 20/20 special. His dinner rose in his chest and he took a deep breath to quell the panic.

    He had no way of knowing that this moment would become the linchpin, the moment that all the moments after would hinge upon. The papers would call him a murderer; the police would come to him; his ex-friends, his gym buddies, the guys who knew him for God’s sake; and say, Nate was the last one to see her alive, right? The last one is always the guilty one.

    He couldn’t know all this. But he could still feel it, like something physical chasing him and gaining ground, his heart beating wildly, a skittering pulse up the back of his neck. It was more than a feeling. It was a portent, something tangible, almost corporeal.

    “She’s gone,” he said quickly, and hung up, dropping the phone on the seat. He should have just driven away. Everything in his body told him to just drive away.

    He opened the car door and stepped into the rain.

  • Customer Reviews

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    The Blackbird Season: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
    laceye721 More than 1 year ago
    I will be completely honest, I picked this book solely from the cover. The spooky and mysterious cover dragged me to it right away. I had a feeling that this would be a good one.  The beginning of this book will leave you with a sense of "what is going to happen next". From the last page of the prologue, I was hooked. There was something fishy going on, and there is a wonder of what will go on in the following chapters. Or will you have to wait until the end?  The characters were interesting to say the least. My favorite character had to be Alecia. My mother is a special education teacher so I see the struggles that an autistic child and their mother has to go through. I feel like the author did a phenomenal job with making both characters real and relatable. All of the characters really developed, especially Bridget. Bridget was another character that I really felt that connected well with the reader. There were times where I feel like I would have to go back and read because there are four different characters going on at the same time, but that's okay sometimes. Each character gave more to this story.  There was a lot of book that was answered, but there was a lot also left unanswered. There were interesting things about this because I liked the fact that I could think about what could've happened. This is where Kate Morelli did a great job making this not only a mystery, but a psychological thriller as well.  Overall, this book was very good. Kate Morelli's writing style is absolutely something I can get into with other stories of hers. I think I will take the time to pick another one of hers up! 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The book was a little slow to start but was thrilled when it picked up. The writing and descriptions are so wonderfully done. I love how Kate Moretti wrote from different points of view from the characters (Nate, Lucia, Alecia and Bridget. The Blackbird Season is written with great suspense.
    GreyKatReviews More than 1 year ago
    Lucia is a strange girl. The kids in her school call her a witch. They think she caused the thousands of starlings to fall dead from the sky. And she’s starting to believe it too. We all become what people expect us to be. Nate is a caring teacher, sometimes to a fault. He spends little time with his wife and autistic son — instead monitoring his students’ online activity, often knowing what drama will unfold before it happens. His over-involvement in their lives becomes his downfall when a reporter “catches” him outside a motel room with Lucia. He believes he’s innocently helping her escape an abusive household, but Lucia has other ideas. Then Lucia goes missing. Loyalties are tested, relationships doubted. And the day a thousand birds fell dead from the sky is almost completely forgotten about in the scandal that follows. You know how in literature class they make you write a book report on theme? If I had to pick a theme for this book, it’d be “blurred lines”. Nate blurred the lines between mentor and friend to his students, enough that a young girl was hurt over a misunderstanding of intention. Andrew blurred the lines of consent with his Periscope video of Lucia saying yes, though she was too inebriated to understand what she was agreeing to. And everyone in this novel blurs the lines of friendship; Alecia and Bridget with their tenuous hold on one another, stretched thin through the trauma of Bridget’s husband’s death and Alecia’s son’s disability, held awkwardly together through the common link of Alecia’s husband Nate, Bridget’s colleague and friend; Lucia and Taylor with their love/hate friendship, closest friends yet biggest rivals. Blurred lines of superstition and science with the falling of the birds. By the end, we’re left with an abstract painting of tragedy, with splashes of repressed emotions and drama. This was not the high stakes, atmospheric thriller I was expecting — at times it even dragged on a bit — but what it ended up being was done exceptionally well: An extraordinarily realistic depiction of a marriage on the rocks, a scandal in a small town, the ambivalence of teenage love and friendship, and the tragedy of a missing girl who not enough people care about enough to even have a productive search party. 4/5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley, publisher Atria Books, and author Kate Morettti for the ARC of this book. For an in depth discussion of this novel, please visit my blog at https://greykatreviews.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/discussion-the-blackbird-season/
    BrandiJPrice More than 1 year ago
    The Blackbird Season is the first mystery/thriller novel I've read, or at least that I can think of. This story takes place in Mount Oanoke, a small town in Pennsylvania. It is one of those small towns where everyone pretty much grew up with each other and they basically know everything about each other's lives. So imagine living in this small town where the only exciting thing to do is gossip and suddenly one day a thousand birds fall from the sky. However, that news is quickly disregarded when Nate Winters, high school teacher and baseball coach, is accused of having an affair with one of his students. Early on I was drawn into the story. There was already a sense of what the story was going to be about based on the synopsis that's given. When the book opens up we are following Nate after what's already been revealed in the description then goes back to a previous point, leaving the reader to speculate what lead up to him being where was in the beginning. I really enjoyed this format because as more things were revealed I was able to form my own opinions while trying to figure out what actually happened and who was involved. As can be expected with anything I read, there are things I didn't like. My main problem was the characters! I found that I didn't like most (if not all) of the characters. Every single character that was introduced had become complacent in their life and was unhappy. Instead of doing things that could improve their lives they only did things that made themselves and their families even more miserable. I'm sure they were meant to be unlikable characters but it's hard for me to stay engaged in a story when I don't like the people I'm reading about. It didn't help that I felt parts of the story weren't really important to the story line I was most interested in. It was interesting to see the dynamics of Mount Oanoke and how everything changed throughout the book. Everyone pretends like their life is perfect and nothing is wrong even when everyone knows so much about each other. Nate was so well loved by most people in their community and I was surprised to see how quickly people turned on him when the accusation of the affair with his student came out. I was gripped by the mystery of Lucia's disappearance and everything that occurred after that. I had guesses of who might be involved but I wasn't completely sure until it was revealed. The Blackbird Season was a pretty solid mystery/thriller and I now want to check out more.
    CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
    The Blackbird Season is an intriguing, twisted, and keep you guessing story. I am hooked on books that have a teenager theme to them. I have raised two teenage girls (I guess I still am raising them) and love when a book is true to the teenage world. Kate Moretti understands the drama, the friendship circles, and the boy/girl relationships of being a teenager. She makes the characters realistic to the real world. There is cattiness between the girls, there is bragging between the boys, and there is competition in the relationships between the boys and girls. All of this is stuff that I have seen with my own teenagers. While there are teenagers in this book there are also adult stories. The story of a teacher who may over step his teaching boundaries when it comes to his students, the story of a marriage that is being tested with coming to terms and learning a new life after having an autistic son, and there is the story of friendships being tested. It was interesting to see who stuck by who and who came to who’s defense in their times of need. I am a huge Kate Moretti fan and am always excited when she has a new book coming out. The Blackbird Season is amazing! I cannot wait to discuss this one with my fellow book readers. Pick up your own copy and fall into the wonderful words.
    whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
    Ominous, haunting, and gritty! In this latest novel by Moretti, she transports us to Mt. Oanoke, Pennsylvania, a small town that suddenly finds itself turned upside down not only by a sudden infestation of dead birds, but a teacher-student scandal that will test the limits of marriages, friendships, and community alliances. The prose is chilling and eerie. The characters are multi-layered, damaged, and self-involved. And the plot told from multiple perspectives is ultimately a suspenseful ride riddled with poverty, familial drama, jealousy, obsession, abuse, love, infidelity, social strife, emerging sexuality, peer pressure, bullying, and murder. The Blackbird Season is a dark, disturbing, compelling read that will keep you on the edge of your seat right from the very start to the unexpected ending you won’t see coming. And even though I didn’t find the characters to be the most endearing the overall pace, mood, and atmosphere of this story still makes it a good one.
    SherreyM More than 1 year ago
    Almost every small town has at least one secret. Some have more than one. Take Mt. Oanoke, PA, in Kate Moretti’s new novel, The Blackbird Season. In Mt. Oanoke, it seems almost everyone has a secret. With the unveiling of her plot line, Moretti lets the reader in on the various secrets held. Told with a point of view from four characters–Nate, teacher at the local high school; Alicia, Nate’s wife; Bridget, Nate’s colleague and mutual friend to Nate and Alicia; and Lucia, the high school student whose life has never been easy. As you read each character’s story, you begin to understand that most of the time what they’re telling you is what they want to believe about themselves and the other main characters. And they each have an opinion on the deluge of blackbirds falling from the sky during a ballgame at the high school. Moretti is an exquisite writer bringing a chill to the page with her descriptions of the old abandoned paper mill, the dark woods, an alleged witch, and the dynamic between the adults and the high school students. Character development is so well done I felt as if the four POV characters were going to step through the pages and sit down in my family room for conversation. Transition between characters’ storytelling was seamless and easy. Then pace was just right–pages keep turning and yet you want the story to last. And then…Moretti spins an ending totally unexpected. Cleverly building to a level of pitch that has the reader’s heart pounding, a corner is turned and around that corner is nothing you thought would happen. If you have read Kate Moretti’s work before (which I had not), then you will love The Blackbird Season. Due out in September 2017, don’t miss getting your copy of this finely woven tale of suspense and mystery in small town Pennsylvania.
    Xkoqueen More than 1 year ago
    The Blackbird Season is a rich, gripping thriller set in a small town that is dying a slow death after the major employer, a paper mill, shuts down. The setting adds to the bleakness of everyday life in Mt. Oanake, Pennsylvania. The story is both modern and classic. In some aspects it feels like an old Hitchcock movie, but there are also very current themes such as inappropriate student-teacher relationships. Interestingly the story is written in a third-person narrative with four different points-of-view. The four main characters tell this dark story, and each of their perspectives gives readers some interesting insight. However, it is unclear if any of these narrators are reliable. Nate, the golden-boy teacher and baseball coach, is accused of having an affair with a student. When she subsequently disappears, he is then suspected of fowl play. His narration is the most suspect. He vehemently denies the affair, but he gets caught in foolish lies. His behavior, including his connection with students on social media, once made people think he was a highly involved teacher; now it makes the same people question his ulterior motives. Alecia, his wife and mother of their autistic child, tells the tale of their home life. Parenting a special needs child is exhausting. Alecia is high strung, and she throws time and money into a myriad of treatments and therapies that mask her denial of her son’s limitations. She paints Nate as a self-absorbed egotist who ignores his responsibilities as a father. In doing so, she inadvertently shows herself as being shrewish and high-strung. Bridget is the “bridge” between Nate and Alecia. She is Nate’s co-worker, and while she steadfastly defends him publicly, she desperately continues to look for proof that he truly is innocent. Bridget is Alecia’s only friend, and both remember fondly their days of couple dating before children. Yet, Bridget appears to have a bit of a crush on Nate--as if she has always longed for his attention, even while her husband was alive. She is one of the most interesting, layered characters in the entire book. The final narrator is Lucia. She is the student with whom Nate is allegedly having a tryst. Is she a neglected daughter and bullied student? Is she a practicing witch, as her classmates claim? Is she victim or villain? The story layout was interesting. With each new bit of information revealed by one of the characters, my opinion changed about Nate’s innocence, who might be causing all the problems, and whether or not Lucia had runaway or died. In addition to the use of different POVs to add dimension to the story, the timeline of the story rocks back and forth with the raining of starlings as the fulcrum. Bits of narration happen before or after the town suffers a plague of birds falling from the sky in the middle of the high school baseball game. This very eerie occurrence adds greatly to the creepy feeling of the book, and the event not only puts everyone on edge but it seems to make them more susceptible to irrational thinking. Her classmates call Lucia a witch, and the townsfolk are on a witch-hunt to find Nate guilty of statutory rape and perhaps murder. Overall, I found The Blackbird Season to be compelling. It is heavy on character development with interesting backstories and complex relationships. There is enough mystery and twists to keep readers turning pages. The story and setting ooze desperation, bleakness, and the cloying claustrophobia of a dying town.
    Chris721 More than 1 year ago
    What an amazing roller coaster of a ride book!!! A small town where everyone knows everyone else has so very many secrets! This book is told by 4 different people in alternating chapters. Nate is a high school math teacher that coaches baseball. Baseball is a huge deal in this small town. Alecia, Nate's wife, is a stay at home mom to their 5 year old son. Lucia, a trouble senior, who is in Nate's class. And Bridget, who is also a teacher, and Nate's friend. I love having the 4 voices as it rounds out the story so well and you get different sides to the story. First Nate is accused of having an affair with Lucia and then Lucia goes missing. The whole town turns against Nate and poor Alecia is left wondering does she even know her own husband. So many secrets, lies, and twists and turns, leads to an amazing story that keeps you guessing until the very end. It was an amazing book that I couldn't put down and really enjoyed. Thank you to Kate Moretti, Bloom, and Tall Poppy Writers for an ARC in return for an honest review.
    teachlz More than 1 year ago
    MY ACTIVITY Rating 1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars[ 5 of 5 stars ] Shelves read edit Format Audiobook edit Status July 31, 2017 – Finished Reading July 31, 2017 – Started Reading Review MY REVIEW OF "BLACKBIRD SEASON" by KATE MORETTI Kudos to Kate Moretti, author of "The Blackbird Season" for bringing so many important timely topics that weaves into her story. I love the way that Kate Moretti describes the scenery of a depressed small town, formerly a paper mill, and the consequences of loss to the families living there. This a story has different layers, and the genres for this story are Mystery and Thriller, Suspense and Fiction(Adult) The timeline of the story appropriately varies with the characters and plot. In this small town, we are introduced to many of the characters at a high school baseball game. All of a sudden, many blackbirds are falling from the sky and dying. The game is finished and the town is closed down for a few days to determine the cause of the birds death. Kate Moretti describes her characters as complex and complicated. In this small town, we meet the Coach and teacher Nate Winters, his wife Alecia, and their five year old autistic son. Alecia is very stressed with her son's condition. We meet other teachers and the high school students. Some of the characters are not likable. Some could be considered quirky, and some seem unbalanced. There is an escalating feeling of suspense and foreboding that something bad will happen. One of the students goes missing. The community and the town seem to appear toxic. In this small town, people seem to thrive on gossip, and there is no loyalty. This book was very hard to put down. It is intense, intriguing, and has many twists and turns. I love that Kate Moretti addresses the current problems of bullying, the misuse of the media, autism and developmental learning of young children, marital problems, and coming of age problems. The author also describes pollution and environmental issues that can lead to health issues. I like the way the author describes the importance of family, love, hope faith and self-acceptance. This is an amazing book, and I would highly recommend it. I received an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) for my honest review. #BLOOMREADS
    SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
    The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti is a highly recommended mystery/drama. When a thousand starlings fall out of the sky, dead, on the town of Mount Oanoke PA during a high school baseball game coached by Nate Winters, it seems to be the beginning of things that are going to go wrong for the popular math teacher. A reporter in town investigating the mysterious die off of birds has seen Nate embracing Lucia, a high school student, While Nate has been, according to him, helping the young woman, his wife, Alicia, has been at home struggling to take care of their 5-year-old autistic son, Gabe. Alecia's friend and Nate’s coworker, Bridget Harris, is a creative writing teacher at the high school and knows both Nate and the girl. She has witnessed some suspect actions, but she is also trying to keep an open mind. When the girl, Lucia, goes missing, Bridget tries to find her and enlists the police. But the police are seeing only one suspect in her disappearance, Nate, and the fragile bonds between husband and wife and friends is near a breaking point as the town seems to rally against him. In this character-driven drama, the story is told from the point of views of Nate, Alicia, Lucia, and Bridget. This helps keep the reader guessing and ratchets up the suspense as more clues are discovered and more information comes out. Moretti is an excellent writer and handles the transition between characters beautifully. Of the characters, though, Bridget is the only one I even remotely cared about. Everyone else resembled a caricature rather than a real person. The ending was good for me, although I did struggle a bit with getting there. I must admit I am becoming a wee bit tired of this plot (male teacher/female student dead) and adding annoying characters to the well-worn path didn't help me traverse it. What did help propel me through the novel was the quality of the writing and looking at the plot from the different character's points of view. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books