Ellie falls into birdwatching by accident when she gets the date of a church picnic wrong and finds herself surrounded by birdwatchers. Seeing the care and attention that a pair of bluebirds pay to each other, she finally relaises she needs to work up the courage to finally leave her no-good husband. So she packs her belongings into her truck and takes her dog off to her best friend Patty's place.
The two of them become more and more interested in birds and sign up as volunteers at a local nature reserve, Ellie with considerably more enthusiasm than Patty. As Ellie returns to college to study biology and realises that life
doesn't need to be the consumerist normality sold us by the media while
Patty follows her new carrer in the business world, the two friends grow
This is an entertaining story about friendship, very perceptive about human relationships and our relationship with nature both on the personal level:
"Her new habit of self interrupting whatever she was doing 'just to look at a bird' was in the eyes of her friends and family..... an endearing if not odd affectation. This irritated her, the idea that anyone who notices anything outside the selfish human world is immediately considered a bit odd. "
and also in detailing the unscrupulous destruction of biodiverse, ecologically valuable wild land to build strip malls, including a heartbreakingly detailed description of Ellie's involvement in trying to save an area of Californian wild land slated for development.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of Ellie's growing awareness of nature, with all the descriptions of the birds she sees, the knowledge she gains about them and her growing impatience and dislike of the way the human world encroaches on nature. These descriptions feel totally integral to the story, rather than added on as afterthoughts and erven where Ellie's feelings about over-development verge on becoming rants, they're Ellie's rants rather than the author's and so are convincing.
This book reminded me to some extent of Barabara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour (which I review here), but though not as well written as that (and in places needing a finer editing), it is ultimately a more engaging and more passionately felt story.
It's a moving and thoughtful story of family, friendship and our failed relationship with the natural world that surrounds us.
Birdbrain by Virginia Arthur, print copies can be ordered here on the author's website. The e-book is available from several outlets, the same page on the website will tell you which.
If you're on Good Reads you may want to enter the giveaway for a copy of this book.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the e-book to review.