Book: The Long and Winding Road
Series: Bear, Otter, and the Kid #4
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Length: 346 pages
Reviewed by Erin
Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.
And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.
There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.
There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.
There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.
As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.
Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid, and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.
Do you remember how it all began?
Goodbyes are hard. Whether it's to loved ones or friends, a home or a job, or even to a book series where the characters are like family and friends, they're difficult. It's with many bittersweet tears and smiles that we say goodbye to Bear, Otter, and the Kid in the final book, The Long and Winding Road. If it's hard for us readers to say goodbye I can only imagine how hard it must have been for TJ Klune to let go say farewell. I would hope with a full heart and a sense of immense satisfaction, too, because there are few characters out there that deserve a happily ever after as much as Derrick "Bear" McKenna Thompson, Oliver "Otter" Thompson, and Tyson "the Kid" McKenna Thompson. It's been a rough journey for these guys, full of many, MANY ups and downs, laughs and tears, but through it all, at the end of the road, this family is happy and whole and that's the greatest gift ever.
It's been three years since we've last been in Seafare, Oregon if you can believe that! It's also been five years since we've last heard from Bear (since The Art of Breathing is told from Ty's POV) and I have to say, it's entirely fitting that we end as we began, with Bear. This guy ... oh man has he ever come so far! From the scared, angry almost-man in the first book to the happily married, soon to be father in the last. That's not to say he's not still neurotic as hell, as ridiculous and endearing and fierce as he's always been because he is. But he's also grown SO much over the course of the series, and The Long and Winding Road shows just how far he's come. He's realized it's okay to have his life not be entirely about Ty and making sure he's happy. It's okay to put he and Otter first, as it should be. That change is okay, but he will never lose Ty, even though Ty has his own family with Dominic and Ben now. None of these are easy truths for our dear, wonderful Bear to completely believe in, but he tries. Life goes on, things change. He's still best friends with Creed, but Creed has his own family with Anna, JJ, and AJ. He still misses Mrs. Paquinn with an ache that will never go away, but does fade. Not that he'll ever forget her or what she's meant to him, but the sting of loss does lessen. And now there's Izzie. His newly arrived sister who has nowhere else to go. So Bear does what Bear does and makes a safe place for her, no hesitation, no questions asked.
That's not to say it all goes smoothly, because, hello? This IS Bear and Otter we're talking about here and when does ANYTHING ever go as planned for this family? (Homophobic seagull anyone?) But before we get to Izzie, TJ takes us back to New Hampshire and the time before Bear, Otter, and Ty returned to Seafare. He lets us see Ty's spiral toward depression and addiction from Bear's point of view, not through Ty's that we saw in The Art of Breathing. I think it was harder to look from the outside than see it from Ty to be honest, and I'm so glad TJ chose to do this. We can finally see how Bear and Otter formed a cohesive and united front when they confronted Ty. We see the pain, the guilt, and the anger Bear has for and toward Ty. We see him lean on Otter, who's always been his rock. It was such an emotional, poignant section of the book and for all the hurt for your heart, it was necessary in order to REALLY grasp where Bear is in the present. Expectant father, older brother to two smart-assed and damaged siblings, and of course half of the Bear and Otter duo.
As with every TJ Klune book, it's best to just read without knowing too much so I won't mention when Bear said ... or when Creed did ... or when Otter cried because ... It really is best to just simply enjoy this precious gift TJ has bestowed upon us all. Sharing this delightful, quirky, flawed (omg SO flawed), so very beautiful family with the rest of us over these past six years is nothing short of extraordinary. The Long and Winding Road is the perfect send off for all of these characters who we've all come to know and love so much and think of as friends and family. The glimpse of the future TJ gives us makes you crave more, but it should leave you with the biggest smile on your face knowing that all of them are happy and together and just as crazy as they are now. Thank you for sharing them all with us, TJ; it's been an unparalleled pleasure!
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