Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen – A Book Review

Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drape over our ghosts so we can see them. —ROSCOE AVANGER, Sweet Mallow

Zoey is running towards something.

The only problem is, she isn’t sure what she is running towards. She arrives on Mallow Island, South Carolina to claim her deceased mother’s condo at a building called The Dellawisp. With time to spare before she starts college, she has come to The Dellawisp to form some kind of connection with her mother, though she’s gone from this world.

There are four other condos and the inhabitants are just as unique as the turquoise birds that flutter outside the building from which The Dellawisp takes its name. There’s Charlotte, a henna artist who seems to be running from something. Mack, a chef whose food brings joy to many, but not to him. Frasier, an enigmatic gentleman who seems to know more than he says and Lucy a woman who sees much but hides more.

When Zoey arrives at the Dellawisp with her invisible bird Pigeon, someone at building dies. In trying to make sense of the death and why they passed on, she will get to know her neighbours and a little bit of each of their stories. Ultimately, Zoey will learn a bit of her own story and how she would like it to be told.

Unseen to her are the ghosts that inhabit the Dellawisp. They know the most of all for they see everything, but like all ghosts they remain silent. However, jut because they remain silent doesn’t mean the ghosts have nothing to say…

Don’t you love that moment when you finish that perfect book, and you sit there knowing that it will be a long time until you read something just as good? That’s the feeling that I had with Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen.

I tried to make this one last, I truly did. I’ve been waiting so long for a novel from Sarah Addison Allen. Her last book, First Frost, was published in 2015. After her mother passed away, things became quiet and though I searched for a new novel by Allen, her pen remained still. I supposed it’s only natural then that grief is a theme that runs throughout Other Birds.

Each of the characters is grieving in a different way, some for the family they never had, others for the family that they’ve lost. Though this book deals with death, grief, loss and every emotion that those entail, the book never feels heavy. Allen moves you through the different lives that fill this book and tells their stories with a deft and knowing hand.

This is a Sarah Addison Allen book after all, and Other Birds is magical realism at its finest. In this book you will ghosts, invisible birds, visits from the afterlife and ghosts. You will also find real people, multiple storylines that somehow all intertwine together (yes, even those from the afterlife) and so much heart. There is a little bit of mystery involved as well.

The characters are so very real, so alive and they live beyond the page. I finished this book a few days ago and I know that the characters that fill Other Birds will live on within me now. I too have been grieving something and after reading this beautiful jewel of a book, I was able to let some of it go.

I have loved and re-read every single book by Sarah Addison Allen, but Other Birds is by far my favourite. Thankfully, it was also worth waiting for. Do yourself a favour and fall in love with the magic all around you and read this book.

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