The Penderwicks at Point MouetteThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Penderwicks only improve with age – each book in the series attaches me more firmly to the family, and each time I reread a book I appreciate it more. Which isn’t to say that they aren’t rewarding on the first read – quite the opposite. This third book marks the first time I listened to it before reading the print version (I’ve also reread it in print). The audio version is outstanding – both Birdsall and Susan Denaker, the narrator, do an excellent job at distinguishing between the characters. When I reread, I kept hearing Denaker’s voice in my head for certain characters and lines.

The book begins with the family being torn apart – Mr. Penderwick, Iantha and Ben to England, Rosalind to New Jersey, and the rest of the girls to Maine with Aunt Claire. After some time spent following Rosalind, we switch to the younger girls for the rest of the book, until the very last chapter when we find Rosalind again. She’s back at home, waiting for the rest of her family to return, feeling that anticipation. The books ends just as they all reunite, which felt like the perfect ending.

The second time around, I loved the foreshadowing of various things, some of which I picked up on when I listened to the book, and other things only in hindsight (the duck, for example). In fact, I have a hard time separating my love of these books from a more critical approach. But I do think that the ability to sweep up a reader into the world of these characters, to make them feel like real people, is a mark of excellence. True, there is a bit of a rosy hue to some parts of the story, but I also think that fiction can get rapped over the knuckles too much when it comes to coincidence. Life – life outside of books – is filled with amazing, mind-boggling coincidences, the kinds of things that would seem unreal if we encountered them in fiction. I’m inclined to give fiction a pass for a certain quantity of coincidences – what happened here felt perfect and right as opposed to unbelievable.

Birdsall says on her website that there will be a total of five books about the Penderwicks, and knowing this makes me look for plot strands that she might pick up in a later book. Some of the plot of this one has been coming since the first book, so now I try to imagine what will happen to the family in two more volumes. One thing that I’m almost certain of concerns Aunt Claire, but mostly I’m anxious to see what happens to the girls as they grow up. Also, I think I’ve decided on Batty as a favorite – she’s come a long way since her days in wings.

Source: my public library (both audio and print editions)

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