Finally. Three weeks and 814 pages later, I’ve finished “An Echo in the Bone,” the latest installment of the Jamie and Claire (“Outlander”) series by Diana Gabaldon. I admit it usually does not take me three weeks to read anything, but this book is exceptionally huge and lately I’ve not found myself with lots of long, empty hours in which to do nothing but sit and read.
The book was both a delight and a frustration. It has all the classic elements I’ve come to expect and enjoy from the “Outlander” series: fascinating characters, unthinkable situations, moral dilemmas, historical detail, gruesome medical conditions, passion, philosophy, humor, whiskey, blood, sex and a never-ending roller-coaster of adventure during the Revolutionary War.
Having said that, the ending left me thinking, “What the . . .?!?!” Hope it doesn’t take her another four years to write the next installment. I need to know what happened to these people! After seven novels, I have a relationship with them. For heaven’s sake, who do you think my Jamie is named after? And my van(s) haven’t been named Claire, Claire II and Claire III by accident!
In other words, the book raises more questions than it answers. And it’s slightly disorienting - just slightly - in the way it jumps back and forth between at least four different story lines. It doesn’t focus solely on Jamie and Claire the way previous novels have. Brianna and Roger have their own adventures going on back in the 20th century, as do young Ian, Lord John Gray and William Ellesmere (Jamie’s illegitimate son, who eventually finds out who his real father is and well, nobody dies).
I have every confidence Gabaldon knows where she is going with all this but my only criticism is that the overall story doesn’t seem to reach a gratifying ending like the previous novels where things were wrapped up fairly neatly. It just ends. Period. Like they ran out of paper. If you can’t deal with cliff hangers and loose ends, better take a Prozac before you launch into the last 100 pages.
I won’t give any spoilers except to say none of the main characters die, although there is maiming of various body parts. Ian’s dog Rollo is alive and well and featured on the last page. This is important because whenever there’s a dog in any novel, I spend a lot of time worrying that it is going to get killed for some stupid reason.