Title: The Long and Winding Road (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #4)
Author: T.J. Klune and Sean Crisden (Narrator)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 19th 2017
Genre(s): Gay Contemporary, Family
Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.
And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.
There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.
There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.
There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.
As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.
Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid, and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.
In this, the final book in the series, the focus shifts from the Kid back to Bear. As such, the first third of the book covers much of the content of the previous book, from Bear’s perspective. As there were 3 years between the publication of the books it is possible to accept this comfortably, however it does not work so well if the books are read one after the other. The reader is already familiar with Bear’s reactions and the story adds little to what is already known. The focus of the book is really to draw to a natural conclusion the themes raised in previous books. There is little in the way of tension as the lives of the main characters have largely settled and with maturity has come a calming of much of the internalisation and personalised fears and panic. That is not to say that they are not still there and that the characters have profoundly changed. Certainly Bear provides the reader with a number of endearing outpourings that are so indicative of his personality.
What the story lacks in tension it makes up for in familiarity. This is a story that provides enough tears and laughter to make it worthwhile. The plot explores a particular point in their lives and then jumps forward to look another aspect. This mechanism, I suppose, avoids the humdrum daily life in-between and focuses on what is central to the story and is indicative of a story that is told by one person to another. This is certainly that is what the author intends; however the reader gets drawn into the story and the mechanism is largely forgotten.
The narration is very professionally done and the narrator makes effort to explore the parts fully. With any such narration it is probably better to have experienced the full series in this way. Certainly to join the audiobook series at this latter point is probably a mistake. The reason for this is that reading provides a different internal voice for each of the characters. It was a surprise therefore when I heard the voice for the Kid for the first time, as it was so reminiscent of Chris from Family Guy that I could not get into his storyline. This experience was exacerbated when Dominic spoke as this was far from the voice in my head. That is not to denigrate the efforts of the narrator. There is clear expression of emotion and the timing is very well done.
As with the characters themselves, their relationships are consolidated in this story. The passion is still there but is muted with familiarity and the love between them is richer for it. There is time now for frustrations borne of familiarity to show through, but these are resolved because the characters chose them to be. The characters have reached a point where they understand themselves and each other sufficiently that despite their differences they come back to one another. Although this may not reflect many relationships in real life, it does reflect some and is something to which most hope to have.
Despite the jumps through time, the story moves at a steady pace, even when there are emotional moments these are explored fully. It is interesting to note that humour is used more widely here to offset these moments. It is as though the characters are more capable of dealing with life’s hurdles.
The story ends at a convenient point where existing threads to the story are as balanced as they can be. The author acknowledges that the lives of the characters go on and will do so without further involvement. This has been a very fulfilling journey from a reader’s perspective. These are much loved characters and the series is rightly popular.