Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen: Book Review

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen Book Cover

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Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen Book Cover
Title: Other Birds
Content Warning: Child Abuse, Drug Abuse

Synopsis from GoodReads:

An enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment on an island outside of Charleston she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

My Review:

In my zeal to read a new book by Sarah Addison Allen, I found that I had inhaled this book in two sittings. Oops. No savoring the prose here. But a friend sent me an ARC so I feel the need to write a more reasoned review and I wanted another chance to take my time with the book anyway. So I’ve read this twice within about two weeks. It was just as good the second time.

*I read an early review copy. Quotes may be different in the finished version.*

“If the people around you don’t love you just as you are, find new people. They’re out there.”

I love stories of found families and I got a delightful one here. The world has tried to break each member in a different way but they’re survivors. Teenaged Zoey is still hopeful and open. Charlotte is distant and skittish. Mac holds so strongly to the past that he can’t see his future. There are other members of the tribe (even some ghostly ones) but I don’t want to give any plot points away. These characters complement each other well and begin long-overdue healing processes.

“There are birds, and then there are other birds. Maybe they don’t sing. Maybe they don’t fly. Maybe they don’t fit in. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be an other bird than just the same old thing.”

The fictional location of Mallow Island, near Charleston, SC, is a delight. Ms. Allen shines when she describes the healing powers of food and she has done it again in Other Birds. I can practically smell the marshmallows and confections. I can almost taste Mac’s cornmeal-based, love-infused dishes. The Dellawisp condos are a charming haven out of time. The dellawisp birds themselves are adorable little scolds and thieves. Add this to the list of fictional places I wish I could visit.

There is some darkness. There’s nothing very graphic but child abuse, neglect, and abandonment definitely make an appearance. So do drug abuse and untreated mental illness. I don’t think any of this is described to a degree that would bother most people but particularly sensitive readers should be aware.

And that brings me to another theme of the book that I appreciated–letting go. Whether it’s holding a bit less tightly to the memory of a loved one, or leaving emotional or physical trauma in the past, letting go is sometimes the healthiest choice we can make for ourselves. The author doesn’t imply that it’s easy–one character has seen a therapist for years. Another becomes more and more lost as she doesn’t seek the help she needs. But the message that it’s okay and even necessary to move on shines through.

“Children, don’t hold on to old love so hard you forget to live. Old love isn’t the only love you’ll ever have. And I can tell you from this side that it never really goes away, anyway. So let go. Whatever you’re holding on to, let go.”

In the end, this is another book from Sarah Addison Allen that just makes my heart happy. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a mood-booster and doesn’t mind occasional deft touches of magic.

Received From:

A huge thank you to Katie at Doing Dewey for sending me her extra ARC!

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Reading Challenge:

2022 Southern Literature Reading Challenge


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  1. Aww, yay! I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I didn’t love it as much as I remembered loving SAA’s earlier books and I’m honestly not sure how much that’s about the book and how much is about my taste having changed. I’m really happy to get to hear your thoughts on it too 😃

  2. Gosh, two readings in as many weeks speaks highly of this book. I’ve only read one by the author (Garden Spells), but will look for this sometime later in the year. It seems to be quite popular already!

  3. I’ve heard so many good things about her books. Love the first quote. This sounds great. Her books (even though I haven’t read them) sound like they have that magical, hopful quality.

  4. It’s been so so long since I last read Sarah Addison Allen’s work. My favorite was Garden Spells, and I see she continues with the magical realism feel in Other Birds. And yes, I am in need of a mood booster, so definitely picking up this one!

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