The Coop is the first book in the Thickets Wood Trilogy and Rebecca Reid’s debut novel is a dazzling array of intrigue. I finished The Coop a little over a week ago and since then have reread it twice. It’s rare that I reread a book shortly after completing it, but her book captivates. Some authors gradually feed us information and we can slowly piece together the threads, but Reid’s different. This book will keep you guessing and at the end, blow your suspicions right out of the water. Nothing is as it seems or is it?
There are six central characters in The Coop. We have Lilly and Howard who take us on journey through Thatchbury and in many ways provide the central storyline regarding Matthew and Jodie. It’s through them we uncover the events surrounding the episode leading up to and after the incident. We also have Thicket Woods; it’s the backdrop to the Coop incident and plays a central role in the lives of Thatchbury village. For in the woods, lies an important tree: a life / death tree where events of the villagers are commemorated. The most important character, however; is a mysterious girl who narrates her own story alongside. Our mysterious girl in is a room and has us questioning, “who is the girl in the room?” I had ideas and each time Reid fed us a little more, the more I realized I was wrong. By the time I got to the ending I was flabbergasted because although one of my original ideas was confirmed, I was also very much wrong. Her story leaves you wanting more and causes you heartache because at times you want Reid to focus on her and her alone, but I realized her story was equally important to that of the rest of the novel. Without her, our journey wouldn’t be complete and although we may question her identity, it’s not necessary to know who she is, but rather how and why.
At the center of the novel is Matthew Cauldwell. As a child he’s abandoned by his mother and left to live with his grandparents. Your heart breaks for him and for the emotional abuse (not to mention physical) he’s had to endure. As a boy growing up, he’s isolated from the village and forced to fend for himself. At one point his grandfather states he thought for sure he’d die of starvation, but our Mattie is fit for survival. His only companions are the chickens his grandparents raise and even the chickens are treated better than he is. Then we have Jodie Tiding, a fourteen year old and a bit mischievous for her age. She becomes friends with a local boy, Pauly, and the two become inseparable. Jodie unwillingly attracts Matthew’s attention. She has no concept of him and Matthew fights his personal demons regarding his interest in Jodie. Late one evening Matthew shoots Jodie and the aftermath is slowly revealed. We see Jodie struggle with the incident and Matthew’s isolation. An emotional roller coaster ensues making you want to reach out to both of them. In the village, gossip surrounds Matthew and the incident while Jodie tries to hide away. Everyone tries to tip toe around the subject, but there’s no going back.
Now you may be wondering what Lilly and Howard have to do with all of this. Howard in many ways becomes an anchor central to both Lilly and Jodie. We don’t know the extent of Howard’s influence on Lilly’s life, although we do see them together, interacting, and living under the same roof. What we have is Lilly surviving with Howard’s help. Howard, however; has his own secrets. As a reader we try to figure out Howard’s intentions and if he’s noble as he appears to be. In many ways he is as he is concerned with Jodie and equally concerned for how Lilly is taking it all (especially after the Coop incident). Reid mentions something about Howard that I’m sure will be addressed in book 2. I hope astute readers will catch it because I want to discuss it.
The Coop is hauntingly beautiful and a page turner. Once you start you won’t want to stop and you’re left speechless at the end. Reid dazzles and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on book 2 and of course see how this trilogy concludes.