Wednesday, January 22, 2020

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin

When someone feels lost, it seems as if everyone else in the world has a perfect life. It takes Maeve Stephens thirty-six years to discover she's not alone in Annie England Noblin's latest novel, St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets.

Maeve tells her own story. She doesn't think it can get any worse. In one day, the thirty-six-year-old sports reporter loses her job because the newspaper where she works goes bankrupt. She and the rest of the world see her boyfriend from the Seattle Mariners cheating on her on a video, and she's mugged on the way to her car. Of course, the world has a way of beating you down. She receives a phone call from a woman named Alice telling her that her birth mother, Annabelle, has died.

Maeve knows her parents, the Stephens, wanted her when they adopted her as an infant. And, they wanted her brother, Eli, who is several years younger. But, despite his rough past, Eli grew up to be a dentist, have a successful marriage, and two children. What does Maeve have in life? No job, no successful relationship, and a car that is dying. So, why not show up for the funeral of a woman she never knew?

But, everyone in Timber Creek, Washington knew Annabelle. She was Alice's best friend. She was a member of a small group of women in the St. Francis Society. And, she took in stray animals. She also left everything to Maeve, including a small house and an incorrigible cat who immediately falls for Maeve. Then there's the man who believes Maeve will take in animals, a man with a bulldog he can no longer keep. Maeve's terrified. She's never been able to keep anything alive, and she's not sure she'll keep the house. But, something about the small town that loved her mother attracts her. 

While Maeve relates most of the story, Noblin inserts chapters in which the reader sees a younger Annabelle. While Maeve was raised in a loving household, and felt out of place, Annabelle lost her parents at a young age, and it was Alice's family that took her in. But, just because someone has a place to sleep doesn't mean it's a safe environment.

Over the course of the story, Maeve learns about the people of Timber Creek, about her mother, and about broken lives. It takes time for Maeve to discover that everyone has a life broken in some way.

Noblin has created a cast of fascinating characters, from Annabelle and Maeve and Alice, to the mysterious writer down the street. And, appearances can be deceiving, as Maeve discovers. But, I did feel as if the author waited too long to explain the purpose of the St. Francis Society. And, while Annabelle's story was given a satisfactory ending, it felt as if Maeve's was unfinished. 

Despite the few flaws, I'd recommend St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets. The characters and their stories stand out in this book, and I'll look for Noblin's future novels.


About Annie England Noblin

Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs.
Find out more about Annie at her website, and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin. William Morrow, 2020. ISBN 9780062748317 (paperback), 384p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a book blog tour.


Sara Strand said...

This was the first book I've read from this author but it definitely won't be the last, I really enjoyed this one as well. Thank you for reading this and being on the tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

Lesa said...

I enjoyed it, too, Sara. You're welcome.

Gram said...

Sounds like my kind of book so I put it on my library list!

Lesa said...

Oh, I hope you enjoy it when you finally get around to it, Gram!