Genre: Literature / General Fiction
Bobby Barnes has a reputation for recklessness. So it’s hardly a surprise when, driving drunk with his two young sons through the mountains one night, he careens into a head-on collision. A final thought occurs to him: ‘There will be stars.’
The next morning, he wakes on the footpath in front of his shop. Except, it’s not the next morning. Somehow it’s the morning of the day before—the day of the collision. He knows when the phone will ring, how much beer he has left in the fridge and when he’ll be tempted to whistle at a pretty woman walking by.
However, Bobby isn’t the only one in the small town of Mattingly who’s troubled by an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Six other people are also trapped in the same day-long loop, each with their own theory as to why and each with a secret to keep. Some among them believe they’ve found heaven, while others are convinced that what they come to call ‘The Turn’ is something far more sinister.
There Will Be Stars is a slow-burning story of acceptance, atonement and redemption.
This was my first Billy Coffey novel, and I didn’t realise before I started reading There Will Be Stars that he’s written several novels set in Mattingly, and some of the characters who appear in this book are familiar from his earlier work. However, while There Will Be Stars makes reference to events that occur in earlier novels, it can be read as a standalone title.
I was intrigued by Coffey’s premise, and that carried me through the first half of the book where Coffey sets up The Turn and introduces his reader to each of the characters and how they feel about being in The Turn. The writing is clean yet evocative, and there’s just enough mystery to incite a niggle of unease and a sense that all is not as it seems.
However, my interest began to flag in the second half. By then I knew what kind of story this was and how it was going to play out, and there was nothing for it but to wait for one of the characters to twig as to how to break the Godot-esque cycle.
Without giving too much away, the story deals with Big Ideas and decisions about the way we choose to live our lives that to me seem more appropriate for a YA novel where the target readership is in the process of setting their moral compass and making key life decisions. Similarly, Billy’s character arc and the ideological conflicts that occur between the characters also felt more suited to YA, though There Will Be Stars is clearly targetted at adults. To be clear, that’s not a criticism; I’ll take good YA over pedestrian adult fiction any day.
However, when an author chooses to work with big themes, such as redemption, atonement, love and reconciliation, there’s always a danger they’ll try to teach their reader an important life lesson rather than ask insightful questions and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. Here Coffey could stand to learn from YA authors who know better than most that the fastest way to lose a reader’s attention is to sound like a teacher. In the final chapters of There Will Be Stars, I felt like I was a kid in Sunday school being taught how to make up for my sins and struggled to finish. (After reading, I learned that Thomas Nelson primarily publishes Christian titles, and had I known this earlier, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up.)
There Will Be Stars is a solid, well-crafted read, but for me, the speculative element didn’t offer anything new, and the story as a whole was ultimately too predictable and lacked complexity and nuance.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of There Will Be Stars in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks also to Grammarly for picking upsix critical issues and seventeen advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
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