#COLLABOREADS // Birds In Fall
It's time for one of my favorite monthly link-ups: #COLLABOREADS! If you aren't familiar with it, here is the scoop: Every month, a book theme is chosen by the fabulous hosts, Rachel and Amber, and anyone interested is invited to read a book that falls into that theme. Then at the end of the month, they chat about it, typically using the R.E.A.D.S acronymn. It's a fun way to learn about new books as well as book-lovin' bloggers!
October's theme: A Book with Fall In The Title
I chose: Birds In Fall by Brad Kessler
A plane crashes off the coast of a small island in Nova Scotia. A week later, the family members of some of those on the plane come to the island to process their grief from this sudden loss. The tragedy causes an inkeeper to open his doors during the autumn season (typically the time he closes the inn) to help provide a safe place for the mourning families. With an inn full of sadness, grief, and unanswered questions, the reader can peer into the ways that they all dealt with their grief in the interlinked stories of those affected by the plane crash. Different cultures, religions, and circumstances may typically have separated them, but a community was formed that expresses a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece interwoven with Kessler's knowledge of migratory birds, myth, and music.
Riveting: What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?
Kessler uses the life of migratory birds in parellel to grief which adds depth and hope to an otherwise depressing theme and plot. And most of the action in the book is during the autumn season, which also is an allegory for death and loss. I love metaphors so I really appreciated how he interwove the two. His writing is beautiful, from his descriptions of Trachis Island to the bird metaphors to respectfully and keenly exploring loss, anguish, and bereavement. It goes much beyond a plane crash and is full of tenderness even with such difficult themes.
Elements: How did you relate to/care for the characters?
A Taiwanese couple set out fruit on a stormy night to invite their daughter's spirit back to them, an ornithologist who studies migratory birds shares her knowledge about their perilous flights each autumn as she remembers her husband's love for birds, an Iranian exile recites Persian tales, a Bulgarian man clings to the power of music as a way to connect to his cellist wife after she's gone. My heart broke for the characters who were grieving. They each mourned in different ways and it was a window into the diverse ways that people deal with heartbreak in different cultures, religions, and life circumstances.
Associate: What other books are like this one?
There aren't any books that I can think of that are like this one. But different parts of the book are reminicent of other books. The connections between the characters during heartwrenching circumstances reminds me of the band of Englishmen and women on the island of Guernsey during the German occupation in WWII in the beautifully written (and super-long titled) The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. The theme of bereavement after a loved one's loss reminds me of different male character-driven novels including Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Brackman, and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.
Design: What did you think of the cover? How did it relate to the contents of the novel?
The cover captured my attention while scouring books at my local library's book sale earlier this month. The bird stamps from different countries enveloped the multicultural aspect of the book's main characters and the birds obviously had a lot to do with the book theme and title.
Stars: How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
I gave it 4/5 stars. It's a difficult read because it's not your typical feel-good book, but it was great to branch out from my usual genres and try something that stretched me into an uncomfortable place. It helped me enter a bit of the inner worlds of those grieving and therefore gave me a bit more understanding and a lot more compassion for those grieving loved ones or who have lost something dear to them. I recommend it for anyone who is willing to enter this uncomfortable place in order to gain more knowledge about the grieving process. But don't get me wrong: It is not all sad. There are glimpses of hope, especially with the ways Kessler enriches the novel with music, myth, and allegory.
Want to hear about more fall books? Hop over to the #Collaboreads link-up!