Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton
Published January 12th 2021 by Forge

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A moving novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed. 

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn't she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie's memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

"Cadie longed to be found, but even more, she ached to be lost." 
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Although I really enjoyed the overall story and concept for Waiting for the Night Song, I struggled with some of the character's decisions and how certain aspects of book played out. I also wasn't surprised by the twist, which is always a little disappointing. There were just too many less-than-subtle hints.

Let's start with what I did like: the setting, the discussions about beetles and climate change, and the fact that Cadie herself is an entomologist. I thought the author raised a lot of excellent questions regarding scientific research, limitations on federal (public) land, and how politics play a role in what the world is willing to acknowledge (mostly regarding what is happening right beneath their noses). Cadie's research is about beetles (specifically those that affect and alter trees, making them more likely to catch fire during a drought (or because people are careless with campfires and matches)). I thought those aspects of the story were wonderfully written and informative. She's facing backlash because of where she collected her samples, and it overshadows the bigger picture - the dangers her studies have predicted. 

Something else the book made me think about: Are we getting in nature's way?

I also liked the setting for this book, and really wish I had grown up somewhere that felt as magical as Cadie's forest and the lake she lived on. I would have loved exploring the woods, commandeering a boat, and exploring hidden blueberry coves off the coast (really wish they'd explored those more in the book). Nature often provides the best playgrounds, but as a parent I did worry for Cadie and Daniella's safety. I kept forgetting how old they were supposed to be, so my mind constantly changed how they looked (despite the flashbacks all taking place during a single summer). I wish their ages had been clearly defined, because sometimes their actions and reactions didn't match up with how old they were supposed to be.

There were a few small inconsistencies, but I'm going to chalk those up to this being a review copy. At one point they were looking at menus, but then the waitress was bringing them their food without ever taking their order - that sort of thing. Glitches like that always stick out to me, but hopefully they were corrected before the book's publication. Later on Garrett says, "I knew it. Your eyes are green." However, he'd been around her - in close proximity - a few times by then, so he should have noticed her eye color long before his comment. 

I thought the relationship between Cadie and Garrett escalated really quickly. They met briefly when they were children, but that time was marred by something ugly and life-changing. It wasn't believable for them to immediately jump into a relationship (if you can even call it that) with one another. They haven't seen each other in over 20 years, but they just sort of picked up where they left off? No. They might be connected by that one summer, and it may have been a defining point in their lives, but I find it hard to believe there would still be romantic feelings between two people that never knew each other, and haven't kept in contact. Cadie obsessing over him also wasn't healthy (the books, thinking he need to be saved, checking boarding schools and worrying about foster homes afterwards). I wish their interactions as adults had been more awkward and reserved because they were essentially strangers. The only thing they shared was a secret. 

Sal (Daniella's daughter) seemed enamored by Cadie when they first met. She wanted to hear all of her childhood stories, and questioned which parts were actually true (believing her mother had exaggerated and embellished certain parts). She seemed fascinated by Cadie - even inviting her to the blueberry cove - so her actions later on didn't make a lot of sense. She was somewhat aggressive, accusing, and distrustful, which are things she hadn't been previously. Her lack of terror towards the end was also unbelievable *highlight for small spoilers (letting a murderer walk away, running into a burning building). Those two things would give anyone pause, and I really don't think the former should have happened AT ALL. I don't care what their relationship was. 

A few other things that bothered me: Daniella not insisting she be the one to find her daughter, Ryan's lack of questions when he takes something from Cadie, WHAT happens to the thing he takes from Cadie, how the secrets are revealed and the consequences that followed, and the way the story simply stops without fully resolving all of the issues. It felt like the author wanted a tidy ending, but the story was way too messy for that to have been possible. And yet... *sighs*

Friar (Cadie's dog) played a very small role throughout the story, but he will forever have a place in my heart. He was always there following her through the woods, waiting on the bank for her to return, and licking her feet while she sat on the couch. His presence in the story was huge, yet he never said a word or did anything particularly remarkable. 

Books like this are always hard for me to review without feeling like I've typed up my own story in response. There were a lot of things I liked, but there were also a lot of things that I had issues with. The writing is lovely, the story is solid, but some of the details detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. (★★★☆☆)

*this post has been backdated


  1. When I saw you were reading this one on GR, I got curious! It sounded like it had a nice mystery vibe and (I thought) even a magical realism feel...except, apparently, the latter was only in my head LOL. Too bad for the instalove and the too-tidy ending. As usual, your review was very thoughtful and detailed (without being spoilery!).

    1. I thought this one was going to be more of a mystery too, but it never really felt like one. Yes, there's a murder, but we don't really get murder mystery vibes from the story. It's just something the main character is having to deal with. I did like the setting for the story, and really wish my childhood had been as adventurous (minus the murder). I definitely craved blueberries while reading this one!

      She falls in love with a guy she only saw in passing (while on a boat). They pass notes through books that she leaves for him, but nothing meaningful. It was just flirty kid banter. They shared a very traumatic experience, but to just jump into kissing and sex? Eh. It didn't feel all that believable, ESPECIALLY with their history. I also really wanted more from the ending. ๐Ÿ˜


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