My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I wanted to love this book, I really did. After all, the characters in the story are such wonderful, vivid creatures that, despite their many and varied faults, I empathized and sympathized with greatly. Mitchell has a certain knack for painted greatly flawed people in gracious and loving strokes.
I was fully prepared to give this a four-star review before reading the final section. My main complaints to that point were the painful density of contemporary references (in 1980’s and 90’s sections, primarily) and the overdone personalities of many of the characters. Regarding the latter point, I love a well fleshed-out character as much as any reader, but there are only so many quirks and habits that you can bestow on a fictional character before they seem surreal. That is what happened to me in this book with two of the primary narrators: Hugo Lamb and Crispen Hershey.
One final minor note: Soleil Moore played a recurring and pivotal role in the Hershey section, complete with obvious foreshadowing that some of the mystery would be revealed, and then is forgotten. Boo.
The real culprit, though, is the ponderous, heavy-handed, and tangential final section of the book. Serving as a long-winded denouement of sorts, it takes us on a view of Holly’s future long after the climax. It neither furthers the primary story arc, nor does it give us any additional insight into the main character. Instead, it introduces a new locale, new characters, and a new arc whose primary function appears to be heavy-handed environmental sermonizing. Very disappointing. If you read the book, I suggest you skip the entire final section (“Sheep’s Head”). You will not miss any reveals of the underlying mystery of the book and you will save yourself about 125 pages of disappointment.