Book Review: Murmuration by TJ Klune

It's 1954, and Mike has a good life in the small town of Amorea---he never has to worry about crime, he runs his own bookstore, he plays poker with his friends in the evenings, and he's very nearly got his own fella, if only he'd gather up the courage to take the next step forward and ask him out already (something the entire town is rooting for). But then strange things start happening to Mike, like hearing voices in his house and seeing giant flocks of birds that no one else sees, and he starts questioning things he's never questioned before. He doesn't know what's going on, but he's not about to let anything ruin his chance with the man he loves.

Book Review: Murmuration by TJ Klune | reading, books, book reviews, science fiction, lgbt, m/m romance, bisexual
Title: Murmuration
Pages: 324
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.*

I’ve sat here for a while just trying to figure out how to start this because this is one of those books that’s just… difficult to review.

I’ve noticed a lot of reviewers describe this as a mindf*ck type of book, but it really doesn’t fit my definition of that word. It was definitely Twilight Zone-esque, but it was never confusing or shocking to me. And though I still wanted to know the details and reasons and full story behind it, it was obvious to me early on what the general explanation was. That’s not to say the story was predictable, I still didn’t know how it would end, just that for me the enjoyment of this book didn’t lie in any shocking twistiness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This was a good book with a good story. I was invested while reading. The quaint little 1950s town made for a unique setting, at least for me. And though Mike could be painfully shy and tongue-tied, making Sean supply the conversation while he mostly just responded with, “Yeah,” he and Sean were cute together. I was rooting for them the same as the rest of the townsfolk. So yeah, this was sweet and romantic as you would expect from the blurb and the cover…

…but I feel like it was also kind of dark, and that’s coming from me. It wasn’t violent or gruesome or gritty, but it left me feeling far more unsure and unsettled than probably any other book I’ve ever read.

*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT (seriously, these are my thoughts about the ending, and I urge you not to read this unless you’ve already finished the book or don’t plan on reading it)* At least if a character dies, for example, it’s an unhappy ending but they move on to the afterlife or they go to a better place or they stop existing and therefore stop suffering or whatever it is that you believe. And as hard and sad as it may be, the remaining characters will eventually start to heal and move on. But in this case, Mike has to make friends with the people in Amorea and start a relationship with Sean all over again. He already did it once, he still remembers it, but none of them do, and so he has to spend the rest of his life having all these memories with people that they don’t have with him. He remembers his first kiss with Sean, but Sean doesn’t. He remembers that day on the dock, but Sean doesn’t. He remembers three years worth of moments of getting to know each other, but Sean doesn’t. And that would be torture. I can’t imagine much that would be worse than that, to be honest. But the terrible thing is, that probably was in fact the better option, despite how torturous it would be. So on the one hand, the book was tragic and sad because poor Greg had a terrible life that, for all intents and purposes, ended in a terrible way for reasons that weren’t even his fault. And then, when he woke up, he was disfigured and alone and miserable. And going back into Amorea, he now knows that it isn’t real and has to do everything over again with no one remembering him. But on the other hand, Greg/Mike seems happy to do it all again as long as he gets to be with Sean. That’s how much he loves Sean, so much that he’s literally willing to do anything to be with him, which is sweet. And now he gets to live the remainder of his life somewhere where he’s healthy and free, and he gets to be with the only person he’s ever loved. If you look at it that way, it’s actually a happy and romantic ending. So it’s not like I don’t understand his reasons for going back, but honestly I just can’t imagine being happy in either situation. But this isn’t my story, it’s Mike’s, so I guess if he’s happy… *END SPOILER ALERT*

Feeling unsure and unsettled is not necessarily a bad thing though. It made me feel something, and that’s good.

I also found the book to be really thought-provoking. Not in a lessons/morals kind of way though. There was nothing preachy about this book. But it still made me think a lot, about things like the way life spirals downward sometimes, and how it’s so easy to state a solution when looking in from the outside but so much more complicated when you’re on the inside, and how maybe I’m still too judgmental despite how hard I try not to be because maybe even the people who are making bad choices, who have willfully chosen to do things that ruined their lives, had reasons and just got caught in that spiral and might be good people underneath it all if only things had happened differently.

*sigh* I think this has become less of a review and more of a philosophical discussion at this point, but I can’t help it, that’s how this book has made me feel and what it’s made me think.

BUT you may take something completely different away from this book than I did. This isn’t a cut-and-dry, black-and-white type of thing. I can see people having all different sorts of reactions to it, including both positive and negative emotions, maybe even at the same time. It all depends on how you look at things.

So overall I enjoyed the love story between the characters, I loved how thought-provoking the book was, and I thought the whole thing was well-written, but it also made me feel kind of emotionally confused, and I think it’s the kind of book that’s really going to be experienced differently by different people.


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  1. Maureen's Books (@MaureenHinten)

    This sounds like an interesting read Kristen. I’ve never read an M/M Romance but this one definitely sounds like something I would like.
    I think it’s definitely good when a book makes you feel something. But I also think it depends on what my thoughts are about the book. If I feel very confused and don’t really know if I liked or hated the book.. Well I don’t think that’s a good thing.
    Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was definitely interesting. There’s one sex scene, just so you know, in case you’re considering it. I get what you’re saying, I think. I definitely didn’t hate the book though, my confusion is more how I feel about the situation… Gah, so hard to explain! Lol. Thanks 🙂

  2. Greg

    That’s an interesting cover. And after reading your review I can see where this would be thought provoking- definitely. I do think it sounds like different people will take different things away from this, and it also sounds like a book where an opinion might change over time as you get distance from it. I’m wondering if the 50’s setting is an idealized setting or just the time they chose to place it in. Anyway yeah I can see where this would feel dark even if it’s not dark per se, and it sounds like if you DIDN’T figure it out early on it’s probably quite the twist.

    That video is amazing! Can’t believe how they coordinate- good thing they’re not attacking. lol

    1. Kristen Burns

      It is a nice cover, I have it in an upcoming cover post lol. And yeah, super thought-provoking, and I’m still thinking about it, kind of trying to decide how I feel. Not, like, how I feel toward the book because I liked it, just… It’s so hard to explain that lol. It probably would be quite the twist for anyone who doesn’t figure it out. But even with all the parts I did figure out, I still didn’t know how it would actually end.

      Right?!! I Googled earlier because I really wanted to know WHY they do that, and apparently one reason (maybe the only reason? Idk, five minutes of Googling didn’t make me an expert) is to stay safe from predators. Other birds find it too difficult to pick off one bird when they’re in a giant, swirling mass like that.

  3. Bookworm Brandee

    Honestly, you had me hooked with your intro. It already sounded unlike anything I’ve read but definitely something I’d like to read. And then came your review. I love that it became more of a philosophical discussion because IT MADE YOU FEEL. That, to me, is the mark of a good book. I bet you’re still thinking about it. 😉
    Thanks for sharing the video as well. Starlings are incredible but I had no idea their flight pattern was called murmuration. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, well at least I know I’m writing good intros! It is a very unique book though, and I *am* still thinking about it! Lol. Except I can’t decide how I feel (not about the book itself, that was good, just about the stuff within the book).

      I hadn’t known about starlings before! So we both learned something new 😛

    1. Kristen Burns

      I had never seen them before reading this book and looking them up! Even with the description in the book, I hadn’t imagined it’d be that amazing. I can only imagine how much more impressive it’d be to see in real life.

  4. Lola

    Some books are just difficult to review, I’ve had that feeling a few times as well. This does sound like an unique book with how it seems both light and dark at the same time. And that it left even you unsettled. That kinda makes me wonder where this book is about and at the same time it also makes em think this might not be a book for me. So I read the spoiler as I wanted to know what happens and I agree *SPOILER ALERT* (highlight to see text) that type of ending is very unsettling and maybe even sadder than alternative options, but it’s good the main character does seem happy in the end. *END SPOILER ALERT*

    The setting does sound nice and with how everyone is cheering for this couple to get together. I just finished a book that made me think as well, but that was partly the intention of the book I think. And you can still read it and enjoy it at the same time, but it also poses some interesting questions that I couldn’t help but think about as well.

    And that’s a good point you make that from the outside it’s always easier to come up with a solution as when you’re on the inside, i think partly that’s because form the outside you still don’t live that life or have to live with the consequences. It is interesting when a book can make you think like that and how it seems everyone has a different response/ feelings and thoughts when reading it. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Just so you don’t get confused if you look back at your comment, I edited it a bit to hide part that might be considered spoilerish, in case anyone happens to read through the comments before reading the book. This is just such a hard book to even figure out what should be considered a spoiler or not lol. I think it probably wouldn’t be a book for you since there is some heavier stuff and the unsettling stuff you read about in my review. I’m glad you understand what I was saying though about that ending 🙂

      I mean, I think that messing with your head was part of this book’s intention? Just not in a preachy way, and I don’t know if those parts that made me think were parts that made other people think. But yes, it’s definitely not the same looking at a situation from the outside because you don’t understand all the details and nuances, and you aren’t the one who has to deal with the consequences. I completely agree.

      This is such a crazy book with how people feel so differently toward it and especially see the ending so differently, but that’s actually pretty cool and it just shows how different everyone’s perspective is! Thanks 🙂

  5. Kendra Patterson

    Thx for your review. I won’t be reading Murmuration so I read your spoiler. From the blurb it sounds like the MC is *SPOILER ALERT* (highlight to see text) suffering from Schizophrenia. *END SPOILER ALERT* Is that the big surprise of the book? Anyway I really like TJ Klune but I don’t like reading books that aren’t light so to speak. Sadness is something I avoid when escaping into a book.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Just so you don’t get confused if you look back at your comment, I edited it just to hide part of it that someone might consider spoilerish in case anyone reads the comments before reading the book. Technically it’s not a spoiler since no, that’s not the surprise lol, but that is suggested to him and he starts to kind of think that might be what’s going on. The book does have some heaviness though, so I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you like light books. Some people might disagree with me though, I just read a review tonight in which someone had kind opposite thoughts from me, it’s just kind of a weird book like that. Luckily TJ Klune’s got lots of other books that are lighter and less confusing to talk about lol. Thanks for visiting!