Cover Image: Rose & Poe

Rose & Poe

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Member Reviews

(Originally rated on goodreads June 23 2017)
I really liked this! It felt very unique and fable-esque with an old school flair, but somehow still modern. The retelling of The Tempest was clear, but it also wasn't shoved down the readers' throats. 
I've recommended this to a few people!
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An insanely readable book that gives a wonderful twist on The Tempest. I'd recommend this to basically anyone, book clubs especially.
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An original retelling of The Tempest in which Poe/Caliban becomes more human than ever, in spite of his differences from the average reader. A compelling, humanizing tale about outcasts and the value that we should have for each other, regardless of our differences.
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I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.


A few years ago, our local theater staged a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I usually love when they do Shakespeare, but I wasn’t crazy about this one. Too much otherworldliness and spectacle.

Nevertheless,  I enjoy re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s plays and I was curious to see how the author, Jack Todd, would tackle The Tempest with Rose and Poe.

Rose is a warm, generous woman. Orphaned as a child, she’s brought up by a witch of a grandmother. Rose gets pregnant. The father feels he is too good for her and she thinks so too, so she determines to raise her baby by herself. Despite the unfairness of her world, Rose never holds grudges (except against her grandmother) and she comes to be loved by the community of her small, isolated New England town. Her son, Poe, is different, but Rose refuses to let that be a problem. Huge, six-fingered and six-toed, monstrously strong but gentle as a lamb, Poe is “simple.” In spite of everything, he and Rose carve out a life for themselves raising goats and selling cheese.

Their neighbors, Prosper Thorne and his daughter Miranda, are good to them. Prosper has given Poe purpose by assigning him the task of building a stone wall. Miranda, who is young, athletic, and beautiful, has been a friend of Poe’s throughout their lives. However, Miranda has gone off to Boston to college, returning home for vacations and to check on her father. Prosper is in the early stages of dementia.

Throughout her life, Rose has faced daunting challenges in her quest to mother Poe. Despite her circumstances, she succeeds. But the true test comes when Poe emerges from the woods one day carrying the beaten, bloodied, near-dead Miranda. He stumbles across the path of the local sheriff and is unable to say more than “get help.” Poe is immediately arrested. The town turns against Poe and as Rose fights to protect him they turn on her, too.

Rose is a character to adore: uncomplicated, feisty, loyal, and loving. Grateful for the blessings that come her way, seeing things as blessings that others might grumble over, she decides on a goal and single-mindedly pursues it until she accomplishes it.

The story put me in mind of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill, another book in which an oddball outcast finds himself falsely accused of assaulting a female friend. The characters are quite different but the themes are similar.

You don’t have to be familiar with The Tempest to enjoy this novel (released this month). And if you are, you don’t have to have liked it very much to like Rose and Poe. And those who love The Tempest are sure to find Rose and Poe an impressive re-imagining.
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Rose & Poe is a creative and beautiful reimagining of The Tempest, with elements of To Kill a Mockingbird thrown in for good measure. The characters of Poe and his mother Rose are developed with style and skill, and Todd's descriptive, poetic writing makes the whole book a very immersive experience. The parts that are inspired by The Tempest are appealing to the reader, and it's fun to spot characters from the play popping up in the book, but Rose & Poe is very much a story in its own right, exploring the way we treat people that are different to us, and the strength of a bond between a mother and her son.
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I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A modernish retelling of The Tempest set in  Belle Coeur County, Massachusetts. This story follows the characters of Rose&Poe or if you're familiar with The Tempest, a more likeable Sycorax and Caliban.

I had not previously read or known much about The Tempest prior to reading this book. It's hard for me to say how this compares to the original or if it's better/worse.

I can judge the book on it's own merits. While it's obvious some characters had to exist because of the original text, it never felt like it was forced. Airmail the courier who shows up randomly both summoned and mysteriously is obviously Aerial the sprite, but the oddity of his existence feels right even in this book. The book itself has fantastical elements, without really coming off as being a fantasy book, which I'm sure owes a lot to The Tempest.

If The Tempest is about a parent's unconditional love of their child and also deception by an associate, then Rose and Poe captured it well. 

I do think that it could have benefited from "more". Adding to some of the story, building up some characters, etc... I can't tell if it's the book staying true to the original play or if it's on the author.
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Cute characters and interesting premise. However, I found the plot to be dull and slow-paced.
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This glorious little book is the retelling of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest but you needn’t have read the play to understand the book or be touched by its beauty. 

Set in the mythical Belle Coeur County up alongside the Canadian border, independent orphan Rose becomes a pregnant teen and gives birth to the gargantuan Poe.  Born eighteen pounds, he has a hump on his back, a port wine birthmark the shape of Africa on his face; he has six fingers and six toes and is meek and gentle as a lamb.  Rose fights the establishment to keep her child and settles into life as a single parent with no support from her anyone. Suddenly the scene shifts and we discover Poe as a grown man, still soft and simple, and Rose making their way through life the best they can doing menial and tough jobs for little to no money because ‘ they don’t know no better’ and Rose making goats cheese from their own flock of goats. We discover that they have few close friends but live happily on the edges of the town and find peace and happiness with each other. 

Poe does have a dear friend in the form of Miranda, who is younger than he is, but devoted to him, baking treats and teaching him how to divide them up during his work day and spending time with him doing simple things such as fishing. Poe adores Miranda, but   also sees her as a sexual being, although he would never act upon his desires. Or would he?  Seen one day carrying an unconscious Miranda out of the forest beaten and obviously sexually assaulted, naturally suspicion falls on Poe, who is unable to defend himself and unhelpfully Miranda has no recollection of the attack. A trial takes place and some of the townsfolk are unhappy with the outcome and take matters into their own hands. Misery is enacted upon Rose and Poe who are helpless against the onslaught.  But is the attack warranted?  Did Poe actually do the unthinkable?

Every page of this novel is filled with glorious, simple descriptions such as a buttermilk moon or a charcoal ribbon of cloud. The characters are easy to identify with. Poe, despite appearances otherwise, is a kind child-man who only ever wants to be loved and useful. Rose is strong and you can’t help but feel like life owes her a kindly turn or two.  When things start to go wrong for Poe, you instantly feel defensive over him, knowing him to be a compliant soul. 

The story has the ability to whisk you away to a time and place that you can’t really put a handle on and yet is timeless in its truth.  Todd weaves a kind of magic with his prose, perhaps unfairly unexpected when you consider that he is a sports commentator based in Montreal.  The writing doesn’t flinch away from the brutal side of situations and yet is able to create a mist of enchantment around it at the same time.  Themes of love, acceptance and the way society is quick to judge the ones who differentiate from the norm are explored.  At times Rose and Poe reads as if a fairy tale and yet is rooted soundly in reality. This is a beautiful, tragic, powerful  and rich story and well worth the read.
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Set in the mythical Belle Coeur County, this is the tale of free-spirited Rose and her gentle giant of a son, Poe, who live a quiet and relatively secluded life at the edge of town. Their simple existence is supplemented by Poe's careful work building a wall for the wealthy Proper Thorne. Thorne and his daughter, Miranda, live more opulent but no less secluded lives. The families have peacefully coexisted, on the periphery of village life, despite Thorne's increasingly fragile mental state and Poe's child-like understanding of the world.

All that changes one fateful day, when Poe is seen emerging from the bordering woods carrying the bloody and prostrate body of Miranda. Without her testimony about the attack, suspicions fall on the giant stature of Poe. His differences are suddenly called into question and the idyllic village life is irrecoverably soured for every inhabitant. 

This was a glorious retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I read the original and this more modern-day re-imagining back-to-back, and it really enhanced my reading of the later. I saw subtle similarities in character and phrase I might have otherwise missed and it added another element to this already astounding tale.

Each individual had a distinct voice and a realness to their character, but none more so than the immediately lovable Poe. His differences made him both an intriguing perspective to read from and enhanced the the reader's understanding of this world's definition of 'normal' and 'other'. 'Normal' went hand-in-hand with 'accepted' and Poe feels the sway of a collected society gather against him after his traumatic encounter with his beloved child-hood friend, Miranda.

His reduced mental acuity and understanding of the situation that follows also makes this a heart-breaking account. Society's treatment of Poe, as well as his now-outcast mother, made this a poingnant and tearful read. Often because of the similarities to our own present society. How often do we see differences shunned and a lack of understanding as the root cause for so much tragedy? This satirical edge brought home the unjustness of the events that followed.

The traumatic proceedings culminated into making the later part of this novel have aspects similar to that of a legal thriller, which combined seamlessly into the more fantastical previous elements. All facets of this story had a reason for existing there and intermingled to bring this powerful and thought-provoking story to life. This not only did its Shakespearean predecessor justice, but is a profound story in its own right.
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Poe, with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot and oversized body, is not your average neighborhood boy.  While Poe is a gentle spirit, he has a simple mind and his differences draw much negative attention to him. He and his mother live on the outskirts of town where they tend goats and stay a safe distance from people. His mother remains his protector throughout, even after Poe is accused of sexual assault on a local girl. His mother desperately seeks to prove him innocent. This story is one that evokes an emotional response.  Love and sadness when we, the readers must sit by and watch Poe being bullied, then sadness and fear when we know the truth but are afraid that his mother will not be able to save him. A mother's love so strong, a son with so much to lose... I highly recommend this sweet story. It is an easy read, as well as a quick one, but not one that you will quickly forget.
Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for allowing me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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“Rose & Poe” was not what I expected for a retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest.’ The setting is an imaginary county (in MA, I believe) in somewhat modern times. The first 30-40% of the book sets up the two named characters, Rose, and her son, Poe. Rose had a harsh childhood and when she got pregnant as a teenager, she decided she was going to keep the baby- even though everyone wanted to take him from her. She loved him fiercely, although others couldn’t see what she saw in her huge child with six fingers and six toes. We learn about their past- how Poe was unable to play football, even though his enormous size was a big advantage, because he couldn’t tackle others or understand why they were attacking him; how Poe was unable to learn at school but has a good memory and learns things in his own way; and how Poe was enlisted in the military for the war, and Rose followed him across the country to wait until the military figured out they had made a mistake.

Rose and Poe do odd jobs around town to provide for themselves. We meet Thorne and his beautiful daughter, Miranda, who has been at school to become a lawyer. Her boyfriend Sebastian does not belong in the country, but his obsession with her has driven him to follow her to Belle Coeur. Poe is building a wall for Thorne, and he has known Miranda since he was little. He loves her in his own way. One day, when he is out taking a nap, he wakes to see Miranda out on a picnic blanket, and realizes she is not alone. Miranda is actually intending to break up with her boyfriend and send him back to the city. However, Poe soon witnesses Miranda being abused, assaulted, and battered. As soon as he is able to free himself from the small door, he runs to her and knows he must get help- a refrain he repeats while he carries her miles to the road, where he is found by a local sheriff. To compound the trouble, a powerful storm washes through and destroys the crime scene.

Despite his urgent cries for help and seeming gentle nature, considering Miranda and he are covered in blood and semen, and there are no other suspects in sight, the police charge Poe with her assault. Rose knows gentle Poe could never do such a thing, but the people of the town have their pitchforks out and are set on his death- they don’t need any evidence. Luckily, Lambert agrees to be Poe’s lawyer (so as to spare him from the public defender who wants him to just plead insanity to the crime he never committed), and the court trial begins to determine his guilt. Even though Miranda eventually recovers, she has lost the last few months of her memory and cannot remember what happened to her. The court trial is really a series of obstacles and difficulties for the innocent Poe and his fiercely protective mother, Rose. 

This book really delves into the dangers of being different and misunderstood- and the fallacy of the stubborn human belief in/determination of right and wrong. Evidence and the law don’t matter when convicted by public opinion. We, as readers, know that he is innocent, and it makes the witch hunt/mob mentality that much more difficult. The main themes of the book are the capacity of a mother’s love and the cruelty that comes from misunderstanding leading to persecution of someone who is innocent but different. It’s a strong story, written in tones like a fable, and one that is unforgettable.

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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I'm a huge fan of The Tempest, and every time there's a new re-telling of it available, I try to make time to read it. Usually, I find myself disappointed in the end, but not with Rose & Poe. This was interesting and engaging, and I actually found myself wanting to keep reading it the further I got into the book. Very original in the way it presents itself, and the writing is impressive.
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As a lover of The Tempest, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating and original.
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