Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: The Long and Winding Road
SERIES: Bear, Otter, and the Kid #4
AUTHOR: T.J. Klune
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 346 pages
RELEASE DATE: August 11, 2017
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?
And this is where it begins again.
One last time.
When I was originally set out to review the first three novels in this series, I had to do it in a mad dash of three weeks to make the release deadline of The Art of Breathing. Three weeks of reading in both quick snatches, and long lengths into the night. I laughed, I cried, I snorted more than I am comfortable recalling. It was, as I termed it, my Great Bear, Otter, and the Kid Adventure. And seeing as how this is probably the last time I will be reviewing this series in any professional capacity, I wanted to complete this review in much the same fashion of my previous three. So here, with the most fond of farewells, it is…
GBOATKA Part Four
Wherein Our Reviewer Finishes His Journey
How can you spend so much time dreading and yet desperately waiting for something? After six years, four heart wrenching books, and two amazing stories of loss and love…how does one prepare themselves for saying goodbye? When I first started reading this series I was newly come to the m/m genre. Bear, Otter, and the Kid was one of my firsts, and so has always held a special part of my heart. And through numerous rereads–and countless boxes of Kleenex–the journey of Bear, Otter, and Tyson have kept me company through these last six years.
And now it is time to say goodbye.
Goodbye to Bear. Goodbye to Otter. Goodbye to Tyson, Dom, Creed, Anna, and all the others. We already said goodbye to Mrs. Paquinn, but her absence is still very much felt. We say goodbye to Seafare, which housed probably the oddest assortment of people ever born. We say goodbye to beaches that saw everything, and houses that held everyone. We say goodbye to rambles about serial killers, and lectures that Meat is Murder. We say goodbye to painful goodbyes. We say goodbye to equally painful hellos. We say goodbye to it all.
We say thank you, for so much.
Mostly I am thankful this book was by far the least emotionally devastating of the quartet. Not that I didn’t drag a box of Kleenex around with me wherever I was currently holed up reading. While the other books were great at pulling you from high to low to high to who the fuck knows, this book never seemed to want to rip your heart out and feed it to a seagull. Instead it just liked to repeatedly poke at your heart. In a loving manner. Wherein you are forced to remember that this is the end and aren’t you sad yet you motherfucker? It was nostalgia and saying goodbye in the best of ways.
The way this story arc was written should have been a bit of a miss for me. For the first third of this book we mostly get a recap of what was going on with Bear and Otter during the events of The Art of Breathing. Flashbacks–especially extended ones–are usually my least favorite thing ever, yet it really worked here. Klune writes Bear to perfection. And while it is great to see a more grown-up Bear on the pages, we also don’t lose much of the neurotic mess that he can be either. We get rambles and monologues about the most crazy things. We get freak-outs and doubts. But that is so central to who Bear is, to lose it would be unthinkable–and probably unreadable, as well. I didn’t once regret having to read about events we have already seen. In fact, I was glad we got to see them again, from this other point of view. And what we already knew was so very well woven into what we had never seen, that it all felt extremely fresh and needed.
When we get into the heart of this new chapter of their story, is where I really fell in love though. Watching the changes as they set about this new part of their lives was every bit as good as the other books in the story. Children, their ever-growing family of oddballs, the ups and downs of married life…it was all such a pleasure to read about.
It was also just as fucking hilarious as you can expect out of Klune. I nearly lost all semblance of control when it came to the bar scene in the later part of the story–and trying to muffle your laughter by burying your head into the side of your cat so you don’t wake up the rest of the house because it is almost 2 am, is just downright embarrassing all by itself. For all that this book had a general sense of sadness that comes from knowing you are trying to say goodbye to these characters, it was also just fun. It never felt like it was trying to be funny, it just felt like what happens when you stick these characters down on a page and let them run wild. You laugh because what else is there to do?
I know I haven’t given you guys a lot of the plot of this story, but that is mostly because I don’t want to. It is something to be experienced as it comes. It twists and turns in the way you’ve come to expect from these books, but don’t lose heart, the journey is worth the ending. Much like the ending is worth the journey.
This series has been so many things over the years. Funny, heartbreaking, entertaining, vexing, painful, romantic, enthralling, real, fantastical. A damn good read and an ever constant recommendation. It has been so much to me, over so many years, that I could never hope to create a full picture. Stepping away from this, knowing that it is the last, is hard. Knowing that there will probably not be much more we get to know about these characters, is disheartening. These are damn good books, and wonderful stories.
But how often do you get a chance to really say goodbye? A real, proper, goodbye. Where you laugh, cry, and after it is all done, realize that even if you are never able to see these people again, you can still be happy that they were once a part of who you were. And so will always be a part of who you are. For six years we’ve been on this journey with these guys, and I don’t think I will ever regret starting it. It was hard at times, hysterical in others, and possibly some of the most painfully romantic love stories I’ve ever read. It’s been a long journey, on an ever winding road, but…
But we’ve made it. Here. Now.
To this day of all days.
I would do it all over again to get to this moment.