Desert Isle Keeper
Other Birds is an artisan marshmallow of a book, a delightfully sweet, fluffy story about a world we wish existed.
Eighteen year old Zoey Hennesey has never really had a home. Her father provided a roof over her head but he and her stepmother made it clear it was done with the greatest reluctance and that they expected her to leave as soon as she could. Fortunately, her deceased mother left Zoey both a trust fund and a condo in Mallow, South Carolina. Just weeks after high school graduation Zoey finds herself alone at her mom’s unit in the Dellawisp complex with only an invisible bird for company. But she doesn’t stay lonely for long. Much to her surprise, something about the move has transformed her from the shy, sad girl who didn’t have a single buddy the last few years into someone who seems to have a knack for making friends.
One of the things henna artist Charlotte has always loved about the small Dellawisp complex is that the neighbors don’t interact. They have a nod and smile kind of acquaintaiship with little conversation and absolutely no sharing of secrets. To be fair, they haven’t had much of a choice. Lisbeth Lime, one of the residents, runs screeching out of her unit if they make the slightest of sounds outside their own homes – sometimes she loses it even if the sound comes from inside! Still, the solitude enforced by this behavior means that Charlotte’s secrets have stayed her own and for the first tme in forever, she hasn’t had to pack up and move just to keep people from prying. Life’s pretty great – until she loses her job.
Mac is still grieving the loss of his foster mother, the only person in his life who ever truly loved him. He goes through the motions necessary for existing but he isn’t really living. He might be the head chef of a five-star restaurant, with notable awards under his belt and write ups in fancy magazines, but after hours he comes home to his condo at the Dellawisp and has only a cat – and a ghost – for company.
Oliver Lime hasn’t been back to the Delllawisp since he left for college. His mother Lisbeth is a hoarder who has no room in her home or her heart for her son. If it hadn’t been for the elderly property manager Frasier, Oliver probably wouldn’t have had clothes that fit or food to eat the entire time he was growing up. Which is ironic since his aunt Lucy lives right next door – but she had as little interest in Oliver as his mother did. Oliver has no intention of ever going back to that dysfunctional place, where his mother and aunt have been waging a silent cold war for decades.
But on Zoey’s first night, a mysterious death pulls all the neighbors but Lucy out into the shared garden. Before Charlotte knows it, that moment of bonding results in her helping Zoey with a project and spending afternoons showing her around town. Mac finds he suddenly has people to cook for in these two lively young women. And Oliver unexpectedly learns that home isn’t a place but the people in it.
There is a romance in this story but while the two characters like each other basically from the start we are at the 85% mark before there is even talk of kissing. The emphasis here is very much on how having a broken childhood because you come from a bad family doesn’t have to make you a bad or unhappy person. All the characters have difficult backgrounds – Frasier was raised by an alcoholic grandfather, there was a terrible secret in Lucy and Lisbeth’s house, Zoey was unwanted, Charlotte was raised in an abusive commune, Oliver was raised by the deeply troubled Lisbeth and Mac’s mother deserted him. Their stories all show how a single helping hand can make a huge difference and how we don’t have to let our pasts dictate our futures. I both loved and struggled with this theme. On the one hand, resilience makes for a much better, happier story than the idea that we might sink in the dark, dangerous waters we are born in. On the other hand, the author rebuilds her characters’ lives with almost too much ease. Everyone is quirky rather than damaged, and the ghosts that represent their pasts helpful rather than haunting. I’m glad this isn’t a dark or depressing narrative, but the sweetness is cloying and overly saccharine at times. The magical surrealism – with its benign ghosts and invisible birds – gives it an almost fairy tale feel rather than the heftier, more realistic tone that the depths of these characters seemed to cry out for. Instead, everyone bonds and builds each other into a better family than the one they were born into.
Which is lovely. Found family can be one of life’s greatest treasures and Mac, Oliver, Fraser, Charlotte and Zoey truly deserve their good fortune. They are, all of them, kind, decent people any of us would be thrilled to have in our lives. I was enchanted by the way they connect and how much that connection heals the holes in their hearts and lives. One of the final scenes in the novel, involving Zoey and college, brought some tears to my eyes. It’s such a contrast from how the tale began and shows the importance of being open to letting others in. The sweetness of it all could have been overwhelming and shallow but it’s also so very heartwarming and cheering.
Other Birds is a fantastic meringue of a book, practically bursting with positive energy. The characters are all delightful people with unique personalities and the kind of eccentricities that make them interesting and fun rather than odd. The author’s lyrical prose, whimsical plot and charming setting make the book a complete joy to read. If you are looking for something delectable, something that will reinforce your faith in the world and the people around you, something that will renew your belief in the sheer goodness of life – look no further. This book is that burst of fictional affirmation you’ve been waiting for.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer
Visit our Amazon Storefront
I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
|Review Date:||September 16, 2022|
|Book Type:||Women's Fiction|
On my TBR pile!
Hope you like it as much as I did. :-)
I have this book on my TBR pile. Glad it’s as lovely as I thought it would be. I really enjoy her books!
It really is a sweet, lovely story. I’m so glad she’s writing again.
Me, too! I really enjoyed her earlier books, and hope to get my hands on this one soon. Thanks for the great review, Maggie. A little sweetness and light sounds perfect just now.
You’re welcome and thanks for the compliment. Hope you like the book as much as I did.