The Great Unknowable End

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review.  I have to say this way a very interesting book. The setting reminds me of most small towns. The two main characters are wonderful and I love them. They are very real and makes the story easy to read. There is some much I want to say about this book but I think those that read this book need to experience it themselves. It did give me all kinds of good feels and that is a very good thing. This was a very wonderful read.
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Whatever I expected from this read, what I got was not it. What a unique story! While Tourette's and bad parenting are heavily featured, there's an ethereal quality about it all. I believe that's partially due to some slight magical realism present, and partially due to the essence of the seventies themselves. Quite a fun read!
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I will not be reviewing this book because I wasn’t aware that books downloaded to Adobe Digital Editions expire. I am giving it a star review based on Goodreads average.
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The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee is a historical young adult read that takes a reader to the small town of Slater, Kansas in 1977. Along with being set in the past there’s also a bit of a fantasy vibe involved too as this small town and our teen characters experience some odd phenomenon.

Stella is an average teen that is doing the best she can with her situation. A bright girl she should have big plans for college and escaping her small town except she can’t bare the  thought of leaving her father and sister after having already lost their mother and brother.

Galliard is a member of Red Sun, a hippie commune on the outskirts of Slater. Having been born into the community Galliard never really thought o f leaving until he’s passed over for his dream job. When Galliard begins venturing out he and Stella become friends despite their differences.

The Great Unknowable End was a fun trip back into the late 70s bringing in music and events of the era to set the tone. Galliard and Stella were both likable characters you couldn’t help but  feel for each o f their situations. Galliard having Tourette’s also seemed to be well done and  brought another layer to his character. The thing that had me  rating this one at 3 1/2 stars was it felt like it just fizzled out at the end otherwise it was a nice story.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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The title of this book drew me in. When I read the synopsis I knew I would enjoy this book. And I did. I pretty much fell in love with this book within a few pages. I was intrigued immediately. Galliard, who is one of our POV's, is such a cool character. He struggles with Tourrettes syndrome, and it was so neat to be in his head and see how he thinks. I have a 7-year-old daughter who may have Tourrettes, it's still too early to tell, but this book has even helped me understand her tics a bit more.

Gilliard has grown up on Red sun, a commune, all his life. He doesn't know much of the outside world, only that it is horrible and he never wants to go. Once you hit a certain age in the commune, you can choose to either go or stay. Most people stay, and that is Gilliard's plan until events happen in his life where he's not so sure anymore. Our other POV is Stella. She has a younger sister named Jill, who she takes care of most the time. Her father works nights, so he isn't around a ton. Her mother committed suicide when she was younger and her brother has run away to Red Sun a few years ago. I loved Stella. She is a down to earth gal, but super smart. She is super into space and wants to be a space engineer. The only problem is, because all that has happened in her life, she feels like she has to take care of her sister instead of going to school. 

The craziness starts happening in the town and nobody can explain it. Some of the things that happened really creeped me out. I kept trying to imagine what the world would I do if this stuff happened to me. I really liked the detail and creativeness in these weird occurrences. I read one review where they thought it should have been crazier, but I thought it was just the right amount.

One thing I loved about this book was all the music references. Galliard is super into music. He plays piano and guitar amazingly and can sing as well.  The book is set in 1977 so it was fun to see all the musicians he was into. The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was Red Sun. I couldn't believe some of the stuff they thought to be the truth. It seemed so crazy, but then I had to remember that there are places like these that have the same insane beliefs. Some even worse. 

I recommend this book to everyone. I couldn't put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next!
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I have never read a book by Kathryn Ormsbee before, but I am so glad that I did...and that the first one was this one! I cannot even begin to explain the feelings I have surrounding Stella and Galliard. I found myself cheering them on through the whole novel. It is rare that I find characters that I sympathize with as much as I did with these two. 

Another aspect of this novel that I loved was the Kansas backdrop. Usually I do not like a small town setting, but this one simply worked. I can't wait to purchase a complete copy!
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I found this novel to be extremely well balanced, incorporating so many plot points that could have easily been a messy web had the writer not kept a tight grip on them. There is adventure, mystery, romance, and as this is all happening, natural disasters plague Kansas, addinng to the tension of these characters. Our two protagonists, Stella and Galliard, both begin in their separate lives that seem to have no link to one another, but when it is revealed that Stella’s brother is actually a friend of Galliard’s, things become shaky, especially when friendships are broken and secrets are brought out.
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I am unable to review this title as I cannot get the file to work. Every time I open it, the app I use to read it freezes, so my file might be corrupted. If my library does purchase this title, I will read and review it.
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A phenomenal story of love and truly weird happenings. Ormsbee's character development is strong as always, and her first foray into historical fiction shines. Fans of titles like The Truth Lies Here and Emily Henry will love this.
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I like the setting here. Its a fascinating time in history to explore. And communes are automatically great fodder for fiction. Same for potential apocalypse situations. So this book has a great start but also a high potential for things to go badly. The signs were interesting but  I could never really see how they fitted together. I think I might actually have liked it better if it had been a little more ambiguous. If we questioned, even as it was happening, if these really were signs of the apocalypse or just a weird coincidence. And I didn't love the turning of the commune from a generally positive experience, good for the inhabitants, to a restrictive community mostly interested in keeping the outside out.
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The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee is a historical fiction/fantasy novel set in 1970’s Kansas. The story follows our duel protagonists, Stella and Galliard, as they navigate the strange happenings around their city. Stella is a young woman working several jobs, just trying to get by and care for her family. Galliard is a member of a cult called Red Sun, and is trying to achieve his dream of being the resident artist so he spread the word of Red Sun to the outside world. Stella and Galliard meet under abnormal circumstances.

This was a fairly average book for me. The writing was good, but I didn’t feel very connected with either of our main characters. I did like reading from Stella’s perspective more than I did Galliard. While Galliard’s portions of the book could be interesting at some points, I felt so disconnected from his narrative, and sometimes didn’t like him altogether. 

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the characters, I do have to say that the writing was very atmospheric, and I could picture everything happening clearly. I wonder if I would have liked this better as a movie rather than a book.

If you are a fan of slight magical realism, you might want to give this book a shot.
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The Great Unknowable End was a fantastic, quirky sci-fi book that explores a whole range of characters and issues in a small midwestern town in the summer of 1977. The chapters alternate between Stella (an over-employed 18-year-old who takes responsibility for her younger sister instead of following her dreams of becoming an engineer) and Galliard (a 16-year-old music lover and member of a local cult who has never been beyond the fence). Strange weather and natural phenomena point to the apocalypse and when a countdown clock appears on city hall, everyone begins their own way of dealing with the possible End. Galliard leaves the compound and explores what the "Outside" has to offer. Stella begins to act like "That Stella" - the Stella in a parallel universe who gets to live out her dreams (though not without consequence). Stella and Galliard become friends as Stella tries to find out how her older brother could have left their struggling family to live out life at Red Sun, the local cult. Over the span of the two-week countdown, both main characters look at themselves and act in ways they never would have if the End wasn't looming. The trajectory of many lives change over the course of the book and Ormsbee lets us look into the fascinating lives of ordinary people.  I don't want to give away too many details, but this sets up the basic premise.

Though it began a little slow, Ormsbee's writing and plot eventually pulled me in and I had a difficult time setting it down. The premise was interesting, the characters were memorable, the use of music and science was a fascinating twist on how to look at the world, and the female empowerment message was appreciated! I would recommend it for sci-fi fans or people who like a little of the extraordinary thrown into their stories. Maybe a mashup of someone who loves Stranger Things and 70's rock? It was hard to put it neatly into a genre. 

As for trigger warnings, when we meet Stella her mother committed suicide about 7 years prior. There is mention of that throughout the book as well as her goodbye letter. I would recommend it for high school age and older. (There is some swearing, which does not bother me but I thought I would include a note about it!) 

I would definitely read future works by Kathryn Ormsbee and loved the read!
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As of posting this review, I still have not finished the book because of how slowly I am taking it. Katheryn Ormsbee has some wonderfully poetic prose to her work and I want t be able to savour that for as long as possible. The two main characters were introduced in such unique yet intimate ways that I can't help but want to spend as much time with them as possible. The strangeness and urgency of the plot really brings out a lot in the characters and I can't wait to see how it ends. Kathryn Ormsbee has been a favourite writer of mine since Tash Hearts Tolstoy so I have no doubt that my love for this book is only going to get stronger.
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The Great Unknowable End takes place in the 70s and features a cult. Well, they don't call themselves that, obviously, they're a commune if you ask them. 

The story switches point of view between Galliard, who was the first child born in the commune and has lived there his entire life, and Stella, whose brother ran off to join the commune two years prior.

Galliard has parents in the commune, but they aren't called that. Kids are basically raised by the entire commune and belong to everyone. 

Their purpose was basically to live in peace, as they weren't a religious community. In fact, Galliard prays to rock legends who are no longer living. He also cusses like a sailor, which I thought was an interesting aspect as I guess I always see communes like that not swearing? Maybe that's just my weird thoughts on it haha.

Stella lives with her dad and little sister Jill. Her mother died years ago and her older brother has run off to the commune. 

This story totally takes on a creepy vibe as it goes on. It starts with bizarre weather that no other surrounding towns or cities have. There's things like pink lightning and then the rain is blood red, etc. It creeped me out and I loved it.

Not only that, but the town (and Stella's closet) have eerily lit numbers doing a countdown. To what? No one knows. 

Stella and Galliard strike up a friendship that turns part romance, and between their budding friendship and the building anticipation with the countdown and weather, I was super excited to see what happened.

Unfortunately, the ending was anti-climactic for me. It just....fizzled. And that's the best way I can describe it. It was such a let down because I was totally hooked into this book until the end.

Even though the ending wasn't for me, I thought the book itself was written well. I really liked the characters and loved the overall vibe of the book.
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I was completely sold by that synopsis and the previous book I read by this author. Sadly, this title was disappointing. 

I liked Stella and Galliard well enough. They’re both struggling and trying to figure out what they want from life and it was easy to root for them. There are a few other characters, but no one stood out for me. 

Plot wise it was boring. I was expecting all of these odd things {and they happened}, but the ending and so called explanation was a let down. The movement of the story was slow and repetitive and absolutely missing a spark for me. 

Overall, I liked the growth of the characters, but definitely wanted a lot more out of this book. 

**Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster BFYR for providing the arc free of charge**
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I have really enjoyed everything I have read by Kathryn Ormsbee. And I didn't dislike this one, but it definitely isn't my favorite of hers either. There are definitely some good points, and some that are... less so, so might as well break 'em down!

Things I Liked: 

•The atmosphere and time period were fabulous! The 70s, punctuated by some eerie shenanigans, was quite the trip to read about! I mean, 1977 Kansas probably wasn't the most exciting place to grow up, so an unexplained potential "end of days" has to shake things up. I definitely felt the vibe of both the time period and the ominousness of the events taking place. 

•I enjoyed the mystery aspect, and wanted to know how it would unfold. I mean, what is happening here? And why? And what about everywhere else? Can it be stopped? Will it be stopped? So many questions, right? And I was quite eager to find out the answers, since I really didn't have any idea where things were headed, which is another plus. 

•The character growth was really well done. Stella really needed something to shake up her daily mundanity. She was stuck, let's be honest, and she wasn't going to become unstuck without some serious intervention. Galliard was stuck too, though I suppose in a more literal sense, considering he was in a cult. But they're at a precipice when the book starts, and it's clear that they're going to have to decide what they want out of their lives. 

•Speaking of the characters, I really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially within Stella's family. Her sense of responsibility and duty warring with her own dreams and desires is all too common. I also loved the friendships that were presented during the book, and yes, eventually the romance! 

Things That Sent Me Down a Research Hole: 

•There is no such thing as 98.5 AM. Okay look obviously I am not going to factor this into my rating, but it drove me bananas, because 98.5 is an FM frequency. I searched many, many sites to make sure that back in the 70s, frequencies weren't done differently, and my research seems to indicate that this distinction between AM and FM radio has been in practice in the US since the 1930s. If anyone has any different info, please share! Anyway it's mentioned so many times in the book that I just couldn't let it go, so here I am, perseverating on a tiny detail. 🤷‍♀️ 

Things I Didn't Love: 

•The "talking to dead musicians" is my least favorite trope in the history of books. Ugh I don't even know why I loathe it so fully, I just know that it irks me and I can't help it. 

•I wanted the cult to be... cultier. The cult wasn't actually all terrible? Which is not what I want from my cult! I wanted it to be a little more awful, I guess. Maybe some cults aren't the worst, and this is some kind of... equal opportunity cult representation? I have no idea, but when I hear "cult", I am hoping for dark and twisted, and it really wasn't so much here. 

•I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I'd have liked. I liked the relationships and their struggles and development and such, but I just wanted to feel a little more of an emotional connection with them, and I didn't. 

•The end was a little underwhelming for me. I don't think I necessarily had any particular expectations for how I wanted it to be, but it just felt a little easy, perhaps? Anyway, I don't want to say anything else about that, for obvious reasons. 

Bottom Line: Not bad, but not as epic as I'd expected. The friendships, family, and ambiance made it worth it, though.
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Stella and Galliard grew up in the same town but in completely different worlds. The one thing they have in common: they’re stuck. 

As a series of strange phenomenon befalls the town of Slater, Kansas l, the events work as a catalyst to dislodge both Stella and Galliard from their trajectories.

I ended this book feeling slightly underwhelmed. The choices of both Stella and Galliard at the end of the story were always the end goals, but the story takes the reader on a wild through these pseudo-apocalyptic preternatural events to dump you out on the other side with seemingly nothing coming from it. The events were entertaining and fascinating and effectively shook Stella and Galliard loose but I came to the end feeling a little bit like we had experienced a fever dream that was all over now. 

It was incredibly interesting to read and the characters were compelling, but the ending left me not quite satisfied.
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This book is about a girl struggling to walk in her dead mom’s footsteps, and a boy leaving what he’s known his whole life to check out the world. This is set in 1977, which I thought was interesting and I loved the musical references within this book!
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Galliard thinks about the commune where he grew up when he’s passed over for resident artist. While outside he meets Stella, the sister of Phoenix, the person who was chosen. With the weird happenings going on will there even be an outside world to go to if he decides to leave. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Galliard and Stella this is the story of two teens who feel stuck where they're at. 1977 Slater, Kansas where a series of environmental abnormalities are taking place is the impetus for these two to start exploring the possibility of doing something other than what's expected of them. That's a theme a lot of teens could relate to which may convince teens who are reluctant to read "historical fiction."  Setting the book in 1977 after the release of Star Wars actually makes this book accessible to teens since Star Wars is still culturally relevant. Ormsbee perfectly captures the voices of her young characters although her adults, particularly those from the commune, are a bit two-dimensional. This book is a good gateway into YA historical fiction for those who enjoy realistic fiction and could handle a touch of magical realism in their fiction. This is a good book for those libraries who want to expand their YA historical fiction offerings.
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