Book Report: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

The cover of the book describes it as ‘part whodunit, part coming of age (with) secrets behind every door’. The brief summary on the inside cover sets the scene as the summer of 1976, a neighbour is missing and two kids, Grace and Tilly, decide to figure out what happened, and in doing so reveal all kinds of secrets no one expects.  Sounds tantalizing, right?  That’s what hooked me in.  Unfortunately, the book, in my opinion, didn’t live up to this even brief plot outline.  I’ll be honest, I pretty much forget that it was a whodunit halfway through the book.

It’s the sizzling, hot summer of 1976 in Great Britain (I know, I’m already having a hard time to suspend my disbelief about that one), and Mrs. Creasy is missing. The rumour mill on the quaint cul-de-sac starts churning concerning her whereabouts.  Grace and Tilly, both ten, decide that if they can find God (as if God is some misplaced shoe), then they will surely find Mrs. Creasy.  The neighbours all suspect the recluse Mr. Bishop, is somehow involved in the disappearance.

The story jumps back and forth both in time and in who is narrating the story. For the most part the story is told from the perspective of Grace, the ten year old, but other parts are told in standard third-person, leaving the reader somewhat disconnected.  Something happened on the street ten years prior that all the neighbours are whispering about, and are suggesting it’s connected to the current disappearance, but the author is so vague about the details, it doesn’t generate the momentum it is clearly intended to create.

The neighbours on the street are indistinguishable and not memorable. Grace herself, despite being only ten, seems unrealistically wise beyond her years at some moments, then like a kid at others.  The book is filled with religious overtones, the title being the main one, but I had a hard time understanding why, as most didn’t really seem to add significantly to the storyline.

Finally, since I didn’t grow up in 1970’s Britain, I found myself looking up all kinds of unusual British words and food references – sou’wester, Black Jacks, Flying Saucers, Angel Delight among others.  I suspect if the setting was in the US, these 70’s cultural references would be more nostalgic, but for me they fell flat.

As you might expect there was a bit of twist at the end of the book, but I was already so disconnected from the characters and the story, that I barely noticed. And in fact, once I was actually finished the book, I was like, “is that it?”

So if you haven’t guessed by now, the book was a bit of a disappointment for me. But if nothing else, it satisfied by goal of reading a book that was published in 2016, so that’s a plus!



Losing lactose

natrel lactose free

As part of my (undocumented) new year’s resolution to improve my health and just feel better, I’ve made a few simple changes in my diet to see if there were any improvements. The first thing I decided to do was to eliminate caffeine from my diet.  I would normally have anywhere between one to three cups of coffee a day.  I still have my morning coffee while driving to work, but I’ve now switched to decaf.  Everything I’ve read said that I would have caffeine withdrawal jitters for the first day or two, but I really didn’t experience that.  It was actually quite easy to make the switch.  It’s been a few months now, and I feel better for eliminating caffeine from my diet, but I wouldn’t say anything has really ‘changed’ for me.

I also decided to try to eliminate lactose from my diet. Actually, to be totally honest, I started the year trying to have a probiotic yogurt once a day – you know, the “Activia Challenge”.  I didn’t really notice anything after about two weeks.  I still had some mild digestive issues, but nothing I could really contribute to anything specific.  By sheer chance I was reading up on some benefits of eliminating lactose (one Australian website said eliminating lactose would improve the appearance of under-eye circles) so I thought I would give it a try for a week or two.

So the next day I purchased lactose free milk, and lactose free cheese, and lactose-free yogurt (we actually already had lactose-free margarine). I don’t drink tons of milk, I have it with a bowl of cereal in the morning, and maybe a glass with my dinner in the evening.  I also have it in my (now decaffeinated) coffee.  I do like cheese though.  And ice cream.  Mmmm.

I was hard-core lactose-free the first week. To my surprise the biggest change I noticed immediately was that my eczema cleared right up, within two days!  I’ve long suffered from eczema, and had it particularly bad as a kid – behind my knees, and on my arms.  In my teen years it seemed to moved to the back of my fore-arms and I had a bit on my face.  In my twenties, it seemed to retreat a bit, but around 10+ years ago it really came back in full force on my hands.  I haven’t worn rings since 2008 because of it.  But two days after going lactose-free, my hands were virtually eczema free!  It’s really quite remarkable.  Sadly, the under-eye circles are still there – oh well.

I initially bought a different brand of lactose-free milk, but it tasted a bit weird. My husband has been drinking almond milk for about two years, but that tastes even weirder, in my opinion.  Now I purchase Natrel 1% lactose free-milk.  For me, it so closely tastes like regular milk, that I hardly notice.

It’s been a few months now, and I’m definitely not as hard-core as I was that first week. My mild digestive issues seem to have cleared up along with the eczema, but I do have regular dairy products here and there – left over pizza from meetings at work and the occasional double-double. But I’m most happy that I can start wearing my rings again!