"In post-war Canada during the late 1940s, Elly McGuinty and her younger sister, Dot, are newly orphaned. The girls are sent to live with their grandparents in a small prairie town. Still grieving the loss of her parents, Elly chafes at the responsibility of helping care for Dot and struggles to find a place for herself in her new life. When a travelling circus comes to town, Elly’s desire for new experiences leads her, Dot, and new friend Stammer - a shy boy mocked for his halting voice - down a path where lives are altered forever."
I have asked the author for permission to use quotations from the book in order to review Book of Birds. The book description (above) is a wonderful introduction to the content of its pages, but to really appreciate how well written this book is, and to get at how authentically Bryski captures the voice of a pre-teen girl (the book's narrator, Elly) as she experiences her life, you have to see her words.
A brief passage on being forced to wear a dress, for example, shows off the humor found throughout the book:
"Dresses itch. They ride up and make me worry I’m exposing my underpants. They don’t let your legs move the way they’re supposed to. And people always want to talk about them. Oh, you look so nice. Why don’t you dress like this every day? Then they complain that I roll my eyes. I don’t see how Dot can stand them. The dresses, that is. Or maybe people. I have a hard time with both."
Another short passage shows off Bryski's ability to inhabit Elly's more serious thoughts about everyday occurrences without feeling overly literary or showy:
"No matter how hard it is to see kid tears, grown-up tears are worse to watch. The walls they break through are that much thicker, so the damage that caused them must be disaster indeed."
There are many more examples of Bryski's talent, but I have to prevent myself from quoting the entire book because she'd probably like to sell a few. She has an engaging writing style that makes for a very easy read, but it still contains profound, thoughtful little gems throughout. Humor mixes easily with the serious in this little slice of life from the Canadian prairie.
In addition to the quality of the writing, the story itself is also engaging, with twists and turns and mystery. It is a whodunit with literary leanings. Book of Birds tackles some serious topics, but does it in a way that draws the reader into the narrative. The characters, even the minor ones, are thorough and complex. In short, it is a very, very satisfying read and is now available on Amazon. Please read and enjoy. You'll be glad you did.
L. M. (Lisa) Bryski, MD, is Canadian, convenient since her home is somewhere in Canada. She could reside most anywhere though, as she spends considerable time living in her own head. Lisa is a real doctor, but doesn’t play one on TV. She gets to wear a lab coat at work, and she likes to fix emergencies, not cause them.
Lisa has many proclivities, including a love of pancakes and all things breakfast. She enjoys reading and writing, and is very proud of her pronunciation of difficult words. Her humor is horrible, her punctuation abysmal, but she always finds a way to end her sentences with a period piece.
The Book of Birds is Lisa’s first novel. The narrative is a 1940s coming of age story inspired by many childhood visits to Saskatchewan, a love of ornithology and the Marx Brothers movie, ‘At the Circus’. Somehow in Lisa’s oddball mind, it all came together in the form of a book. Lisa’s novel tells of Elly and her sister Dot, newly orphaned girls who move to a small prairie town to live with their grandparents. Elly’s struggles to fit in lead both girls into danger. The consequences are unfortunate, and hopefully well worth the money to read about.