Newest review: My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

May 13, 2020

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: May 12, 2020

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A child must deal with the loss of her parents and the uneasy guardianship of a family friend on her island home. Neighbors and friends become an integral part of her life as they band together—or not—in an effort to take care of her, all while finding new ways to navigate relationships. Author Lisa Duffy entertains readers and offers them a well-executed twist in her mostly likeable novel My Kind of People.

On Ichabod Island off the New York coast, ten-year-old Sky is relearning what family means. Her birth parents left her at the Ichabod fire station when she was a baby, so she was adopted by island natives Brian and Ann. Two months ago, Brian and Ann died in a horrible car crash. In their will, they’d named their best friend, Leo, as Sky’s guardian.

While Leo is, admittedly, relieved to be back home on the island, he’s still trying to process the reality that his friends are gone. The situation becomes more complicated by his husband, Xavier, who is a New Yorker through and through. Xavier has little time and even less patience for slow island life. He wants Leo to find a new home for Sky so he and Leo can return to the city.

It isn’t quite that simple for Leo, though. One of the things he and Xavier had agreed on when getting married was that they didn’t want kids, but he can’t abandon Sky or dishonor Brian and Ann’s last wishes. Having Sky’s fourth-grade teacher, Maggie, just across the street and former contractor, Joe, next door makes him feel a little less alone. He just wishes Xavier could see that even though their circumstances have changed, this could still be a good thing.

Maggie is grateful for the distraction of helping with Sky. Lately she’s felt increasingly disconnected from her husband, Pete. Warning signs of infidelity keep popping up, and Maggie keeps ignoring them. After all, Pete’s the chief of police on Ichabod. It’s a given that he comes in contact with a lot of people.

If there’s one person who won’t let Maggie forget that the signs are there, it’s Agnes, Maggie’s best friend and the neighborhood busybody. Agnes has no trouble passing judgment on everyone and everything. She doesn’t approve of Pete’s behavior and tells Maggie point blank that Pete isn’t worth it anymore.

Maggie doesn’t appreciate the meddling, and when Agnes invites Sky’s estranged grandmother to town, without anyone’s consent or knowledge, Maggie feels like her friend has gone too far. As relationships change and new ones pop up, the residents of Ichabod Island will learn more about themselves and one another than they’ve known in a long time. Through it all, Sky tries to remind herself that the people in her life mean well, even if they don’t always know how to express it.

Author Lisa Duffy builds quite the list of characters to varying degrees of success. Sky, Leo, and Maggie get the most attention and the most development. The other characters, at times, seem to be filling a role.

Agnes’s interference can be distracting. At times it’s hard to understand how Maggie maintained their friendship for so long. Pete’s erratic behavior will raise a red flag for readers, if not Maggie, in the first few encounters with him. Duffy handles Maggie’s portion with grace and realism, though. Maggie agonizes over the decision to believe him or not when he claims his innocence, but once she makes a decision she sticks with it all the way to the end.

Sky definitely comes out the winner in this cast. Sweet and smart, she’s easy to root for. Leo, too, will charm readers from the outset, so much so that they might wonder what attracted him to Xavier in the first place. Xavier’s exasperation with the situation is justifiable, but the length of time he spends complaining about seems less an adult response and more a teenager throwing a tantrum.

Some characters do an about-face in the novel, which might seem a little forced, but the book redeems itself with the reveal Duffy plants. It may just take a while to get there. I recommend readers Borrow My Kind of People.

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