A Wisp of Hope

Other Birds

by Sarah Addison Allen

We’re going to try something different today. I love baking, so I thought it would be fun to pair a recipe with my blog posts. Before we get to the review, here’s a themed treat to make to get you in the mood to read Other Birds. Click here to see the full recipe on Taste of Home.

Magical realism is a genre that I don’t pick up often, but for unknown reasons. They tend to sit on my shelf a little longer than average while I opt for other selections over them. I’m not sure why this is– I almost always love them. So, when a member of one of my book clubs suggested Other Birds, I was thrilled to have a reason to move it up on my TBR pile.

This book was a little slice of wonder wrapped up in a quick, sub-300 page read. It follows the story of Zoey, a 19-year-old girl who moves out of her father’s house in Tulsa, Oklahoma to go live in her deceased mother’s flat in South Carolina. Zoey doesn’t remember much about her mother, so she is seeking any connection to her. The flat is located on Mallow Island, which is famous for its marshmallows. The island is dotted with businesses reminiscent of the golden age of its sugary treats. On this already magical-sounding island, Zoey pulls up to the Dellawisp, a hidden apartment complex owned my Roscoe Avanger. Avanger is an author who made the tiny island famous through his fictional book, Sweet Mallow. He tries to stay out of the limelight, so no one on the island sees him often. However, he infused his apartment complex with small, blue birds called dellawisps that follow visitors when they visit.

Zoey was neglected by her father and stepmother, so she seeks any type of connection throughout the book. Her only real friend is an invisible bird named Pigeon, who follows her around and messes with her when she thinks she’s making wrong decisions. While Zoey will do anything to get to know the people around her, the other residents of the Dellawisp do not talk at all. They have been held hostage for years by the nosy Lizabeth, an old woman that yells at them every time they make noise outside her door. When Lizabeth unexpectedly dies, the caretaker of the Dellawisp, Fraiser, asks Zoey to clean out her apartment. Lizabeth was a hoarder, so this is an enormous task. She meets (and kind of corners) her neighbor, Charlotte, to help her. Charlotte is a henna artist who, unbeknownst to Zoey, is on the run from her parents. She was raised in a religious cult, and one day she decided to steal the church’s money and run. Other residents that begin to emerge are Mac, an executive chef whose mother abandoned him as a child, and Lucy, Lizabeth’s reclusive sister. As the summer (and the mess in Lizabeth’s flat) progresses, the relationships that each character seeks begin to emerge.

You might be saying, “Magical realism? This sounds like a perfectly normal book aside from the invisible pigeon.” You’re right– except that we haven’t gotten to the ghost residents yet. There are three ghost residents of the Dellawisp. First, Lizabeth hangs out with Fraiser, causing drama and refusing to leave for the afterworld until somebody finds the story that she has been wanting to tell. Then, there’s Camille. Camille desperately wants to leave for the afterworld, but Mac is holding on to her. She raised Mac after his mom left and gave him a loving home. He can’t bear to say goodbye to her, so she sprinkles him with cornmeal every night. The third ghost is a surprise until the end of the book.

The reviews on this book were mixed in our book club, but most people thought it was charming. Despite the terrible childhoods that each character experienced, this book radiated positivity. You found yourself rooting for each character as they began to find the connection they sought with each other. A few of my friends were turned off by portions of the book that felt unpolished. However, the magical setting of Mallow Island mixed with the whimsical dellawisp birds left me feeling hopeful. I want to keep imagining myself living on a sugar island full of beautiful blue birds.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Rating System Explained

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was an amazing book, and I can't stop thinking about it.   It impacted me emotionally or changed my perspective.  My thoughts keep flickering back to it at random times throughout the day.  I will absolutely recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was a really good book.  Parts of it stuck with me, and I might mention it in a conversation.  There is a high likelihood that I will recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️:  I liked this book.  It allowed me to escape from reality for a while.  While I might tell somebody about it if I think it will interest them, I will probably not suggest it to one of my book clubs.

2 Stars ⭐️⭐️:  There's something about this book that I didn't like.  I wasn't willing to go all the way down to a one-star rating, but I'm definitely not digging it.  I may recognize that this book is not for me, but it might be for other people.  I will not recommend it to my friends or one of my book clubs.

1 Star ⭐️:  My rarest rating.  I really didn't like this book.  Something in the story line upset me, and I probably "hate-read" the majority of the book.  Not only will I not recommend it, but I will actively tell people that I did not like it.

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