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  • Sarina Bosco

Cuyahoga | Pete Beatty

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Read If: you're interested in American legend/myth, you enjoy unreliable narrators, you're curious about unconventional dialogue.

I made the mistake of going onto Goodreads quickly before writing up this review and double-checking that I had added this book to my "read" list. Immediately saw the author's rating for his own book...which is weird (and cringey tbh). But whatever.

My partner picked up Cuyahoga and when I saw that the author wrote dialogue without quotation marks in a way that really seemed to work, I got excited. Cuyahoga follows Big Son and Middle (Meed) Son, two brothers. Big Son is a literal American legend, like Paul Bunyan. Only for some reason he's suddenly losing all of his shine and making a mess of things.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the sudden twist - which essentially happened in one sentence - and the unreliable narrator. It was hard to really "like" any of the characters (a good thing, in my opinion), and there was something about each of them that stood out and made me ache a bit.

Beatty manages to sink readers right into the heart of the Ohio/Cleveland setting pre-settlement of the west, when both were just large towns starting out on opposite sides of a river. There are so many beautiful tiny details, including the way in which the dialogue is written - each character's voice really comes alive.

That being said, the ending and revelation felt very rushed. There were a lot of loose ends/unanswered questions. I love unanswered questions, but these were too big: WHY is Meed doing what's he's doing? What are his actual intentions? Why did Cloe just suddenly disappear?

Overall, the ending was a real letdown for a pretty sturdy story - kind of like Big Son, actually.

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