Hannibal Free Public Library

Every Last Cuckoo

Kate Maloy

July 28, 2008

 Every Last Cuckoo  by Kate Maloy is the story of seventy-five-year-old Sarah Lucas and her husband, Charles, who succumbs to an injury at the peak of a particularly brutal Vermont winter.  In grief, Sarah’s memories take her back to the Great Depression, when her parents generously opened their home to countless friends and relatives, and to her own regretted missteps as a parent. The chance to recreate the one experience and rectify the other arrives uninvited when a variety of lost souls seek shelter and solace in Sarah’s too empty home. Together Sarah and her boarders discover unseen beauty in the landscape, uncover hidden talents and develop a nurturing, healing community.

 Kate Maloy is the author of the memoir A Stone Bridge North: Reflections in a New Life. Her work has been published by LiteraryMama.com, VerbSap.com, and the Readerville Journal. She has forthcoming pieces in the Kenyon Review and two anthologies: For Keeps and Choice. She lives with her husband on the central coast of Oregon, where she is working on a second novel.    

  1. Caroline Leavitt says that the book is "A luminously textured novel that insists that grief need not diminish a life but instead can offer up a bounty of surprises, that choices don't have to narrow as we age but in fact can grow more plentiful, and finally, and most important, that love can be as open and expansive as the sky itself.”  Do you agree with Leavitt? 
  1. What did you learn about grief and grieving while reading this book?
  1. Charles and Sarah have a decades-long marriage, a tender, steady domestic partnership that is the reward of a lifetime of shared experiences, both good and bad.   What about their life together prepares Sarah (and the reader) for the rest of the book?
  2. Were you surprised as a reader by Charles' death, which arrives unexpectedly for Sarah halfway through the book?
  1. Why does Sarah replace the life she had anticipated as a solitary widow by new pleasures and frustrations?  Do you agree with Sarah when she likens the way her house fills with boarders to the way in which a cuckoo inserts itself into the nest of another bird and make its home there?
  1. Maloy’s first book was a memoir entitled A Stone Bridge North.  Because it also involved the Quaker faith in the northern setting of Vermont, it is easy to conclude that Maloy is still exploring personal things about herself in her first novel.  What things were easier for Maloy to explore in a work of fiction?
  1. Maloy includes wordplay and nature imagery in her spare and unassuming prose.  Did you like the literary style in which the book was written?
  1. Sarah’s teenaged granddaughter and two of her friends live with Sarah for the summer.  Is their behavior plausible?  What about the other characters that Maloy brings to live with Sarah?  Why does Maloy make each seem more agreeable than the last? 
  1. Is the spectacular climax, an expression of its characters’ principles in action, out of place with the novel’s quiet thoughtfulness?
  1. A reviewer on loadedquestions.blogspot.com asked Maloy, “…Out of the great ensemble you have created to write another novel about, which one would you choose?”  Maloy said, “I love them all and would find it difficult to choose.”  Do you have a favorite character? 
  1. Would you like to read a sequel?  Why or why not?

Partially adapted from reviews and information found in Publishers Weekly, Boston Globe, www.barnesandnoble.com, http://loadedquestions.blogspot.com/2008/02/loaded-questions-interview-with-kate.html, and http://www.oregonlive.com/art/index.ssf/2008/01/27-week/