Book Review: Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss

Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Delacorte Press
  • Release Date:  11.26.2013
  • One night, two strangers.A damage that cannot be undone.

    For thirty years, Howard and Deborah Morgan have poured all their energy and modest savings into Stoneyridge, a smallholding deep in the English moors. Howard putters with pottery, Deborah dabbles in weaving, and both struggle to tend sheep and chickens and live off the land. But what began with simple dreams of solitude and sunlit picnics in the hills has given way to a harsher reality.

    To help with finances, they decide to turn Stoneyridge into a bed-and-breakfast. But a sudden stroke leaves Howard incapacitated and Deborah overwhelmed. Howard’s world, once so limitless, has shrunk to the confines of their crumbling house; Deborah’s main joy now comes in the form of a brief weekly email from their successful son, who lives abroad.

    Then, late one evening, two men arrive needing a room for the night—and set off a chain of events that uncovers the relics of old tragedies. New wounds are cut deep, betrayals and cruelties intermix with tenderness and love. And through it all, Stoneyridge quietly hides the bitter and transformative truth.

    Evocative, intimately claustrophobic, and psychologically complex, ‘Our Picnics in the Sun’ is a novel of stunning prose and knife-sharp insight. Morag Joss crafts a modern masterpiece of rising tension that binds and releases like a beating heart, propelling readers to a final page that resonates and haunts.One night, two strangers.

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    My Review:

    Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss is a book that focuses on a few important aspects of life and family.  There are three stories happening: the dynamic between Howard and Deborah, the distance communication between Deborah and Adam, and the commentary on the life of a caretaker in a family ill-equipped to handle emergency situations.  Of the three, the one that broke my heart the most was the distance communication between Deborah and Adam, her son – but the combination of the three made for a powerful story, one that I both dreaded and ached to pick up … just so I could find out what happened next.

    Deborah and Howard are an older couple with an adult son.  Free-thinkers, Deborah has always followed Howard’s lead.  Howard is an artist and has some interesting thoughts on everything from bread-baking to where a woman should give birth.  But now, Howard is not able to express those thoughts due to a stroke that has placed him into the care of Deborah full-time.

    Deborah struggles to run (and really, fails is more the right term) a B&B.  She manages to make it into town on Wednesdays – the highlight of that visit being the time she spends in emails to her only son, Adam.  She dotes on her son and lives for his birthday when they can take a picnic out on the moor.  However, the last picnic was held in 2004 – a disastrous event that has resulted in Adam’s refusal to make it home.  Still, Deborah hopes and hopes.

    Our Picnics in the Sun may sound like a title that could be about something happy – my mind brought up images of laughing children and games played after sandwiches and lemonade were consumed.  But Joss has written a book that highlights regret.  The regret of decisions made in the past, of relationships not maintained, of lives not lived.  Joss explores the stress that is placed on caretakers when a medical event occurs that requires all the time and energy of the partner and she really digs deep to portray the despair of both Howard and Deborah in a way that had me almost weeping.

    Although I’m not a fan of vague endings, Joss’s worked well here – because this is not a book that tells a story that has a beginning and an end.  Rather, it’s a book that explores all those messy feelings that happen during life and the effect they have not only on ourselves, but on those around us as well.

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