By Ekta R. Garg
May 19, 2021
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Release date: May 15, 2021
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
When a couple experience the worst tragedy imaginable, their relationship stretches to its limits. As they grapple with their individual grief and what they’ve lost as a family, they try to figure out how to live with a “new normal.” Author Peter Friedrichs tugs at heartstrings but loses a little bit of focus in his debut book And the Stars Kept Watch.
Catherine and Nathan Osgood have everything they could ever want as a couple. They live in Maine in a home they built in the woods. Nathan works as a financial planner, and Catherine gave up her burgeoning law career to raise their two boys. Although she misses working, for the most part Catherine is content.
Their home gives them the opportunity to spend a lot of time outdoors, which is a bonus for Nathan. When Catherine buys him an ATV for his birthday, he’s thrilled about the chance to take the boys out for rides. The family falls into a routine where Nathan and the boys go riding while Catherine catches up on housework and enjoys a little bit of time for herself.
One of the rides turns fatal, however, leaving Nathan and Catherine dumbstruck with grief. In a single afternoon, they lose their children and their role as parents. Nathan is wracked with grief; Catherine is filled with rage.
The two begin the seemingly impossible task of working through all the emotions they experience, but they can’t seem to find their way back to one another as a couple. As Catherine deals with the reality of empty days, she starts to question her entire commitment to Nathan. Was it really her choice, she wonders, to give up her career, or did she get swept up in Nathan’s enthusiasm to be the sole provider?
Nathan gets caught up in the legal ramifications of his actions and is stunned to discover that Catherine is questioning their relationship. He’s already lost his boys. He doesn’t think he can survive losing Catherine. As he does the work of understanding his role in the accident, he also tries to figure out what life might look like in a future alone. He doesn’t know if it’s even possible to consider that future, but he knows Catherine may not give him much of a choice.
Author Peter Friedrichs brings a great deal of heart to the book. Nathan and Catherine’s grief and all of the other emotions they experience are definitely the strongest points. Friedrichs doesn’t hold back, letting Nathan and Catherine go back and forth in messy, loud exchanges that ring true to real life.
Parts of the plot needed some additional attention, however. While Catherine is the one who gave Nathan the ATV in the first place, not once does she express guilt about how that action might have played a role in the accident. Also, the legal trouble Nathan experiences doesn’t seem realistic, although later plot points reveal why he needed to go through it in the first place. The result is that the legal issues feel convenient instead of organic to the plot. Too many flashbacks also occur in the middle of scenes, slowing down the pace.
Catherine seems too quick to judge Nathan at times, and readers may get a little impatient with her confusion at what she’s actually feeling in some moments. Overall, however, the book plumbs the depths of difficult questions and experiences. Readers who like stories that challenge them with real-life dilemmas will enjoy this one. I recommend readers Borrow And the Stars Kept Watch.