motion of puppets book coverReviewed by Maria Tews

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue was a book that I really tried to enjoy, but ultimately found too many issues with. My main one is that it lacked motion, or action, or really anything that could’ve made the lengthy 260 pages go by at least somewhat easily. The book seemed to drag on with a protracted story line that relied heavily on descriptions, but the ending left me hanging with several frustratingly unanswered questions.

Kay and Theo Harper are a newlywed couple spending the summer in the quaint Old City of Québec when Kay, afraid that someone is following her when she is returning home late from work, runs into a seemingly abandoned toy shop for safety and turns into a puppet. The next morning, Theo realizes his wife is missing and contacts the police, but the case is cold and there are few leads. Eventually Theo does realize that Kay has turned into a puppet and seeks to rescue her, but the novel fails to deliver the “modern take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth-a suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment” that it promises. For one, the book’s description of Kay’s captivity is unnecessarily long and Theo’s mission to save her does not start until over halfway into the book. The story was stretched out so much that it became dull and difficult to get through. I couldn’t empathize with either of the main characters–Kay was almost apathetic to her situation, occasionally sentimental but for the most part fine with her new life as a puppet. There wasn’t much chemistry between Kay and Theo, so not much romance, and whatever enchantment the magical puppets conjured was sad and depressing.

I was deeply dissatisfied with the ending, which I felt was abrupt and failed to explain the many questions I still had. What was the story behind the Original, the powerful puppet that turned humans into puppets? What happened to the puppet that had managed to escape? What about the Deux Mains, the puppet makers themselves, who for some reason had no qualms with making humans into puppets (with the Original’s help, or following his orders–I didn’t quite understand their relationship)? Sure the puppets were special and amazingly life-like, but puppetry was an increasingly obsolete business and they had little money to gain from this sordid enterprise.

I feel like the core plot had potential, but Donohue failed to execute it properly. His descriptions are beautiful and he does a wonderful job of describing Québec and the puppets, but the story just completely missed the mark for me. There was a word that Donahue repeatedly used in the book: “ennui”, which according to the Oxford Dictionary means “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement”. I couldn’t help but feel as if “ennui” was the perfect word to express what I felt while reading The Motion of Puppets.

Maria Tews is a high school student in Northeastern Connecticut. Maria loves reading, writing, and a hot cup of tea.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Picador. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.