“Birds of Wonder” Book Review

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Title: Birds of Wonder
Author: Cynthia Robinson

On an August morning while out walking her dog, Beatrice Ousterhout, a high school English teacher, discovers the worst thing imaginable- the unclothed, dead body of her student Amber Inglin. Her daughter, Jes, a detective is the first to the scene and sets off to find the culprit of the crime. As Jes investigates those who were close to the girl, she discovers everyone has something to hide, including herself.

Birds of Wonder is a compelling narrative told from multiple perspectives applying the notion of what you see, is not what you get. Our lead protagonist, Jes engages in a string of one night stands, she calls “drive-bys,” never returning to the same man twice, until she meets vintner Liam Walsh. While one could easily say Jes is afraid of commitment, she’s carefully crafted a way of life to protect her from focusing on a family secret she refuses to confront. Then there’s Liam Walsh, her latest conquest, whose life is flawless in every way, but when Jes enters his life, the facade of his picture-perfect life comes crashing down.

While the characters share their point of view in the wake of Amber’s death, the girl in question is missing from the novel. To her foster siblings, she was confident and daring, while Edward, a painter with an affinity for underage photography, craved to perfect her flaws. To Jes, she’s the victim of a terrible crime and to her mother, she was the vulnerable lead actress in her school’s production of The Duchess of Malfi. She’s merely a caricature of what others perceived her to be.

In a world of edge of your seat mysteries such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, Birds of Wonder is a study of character and the aftermath of a young girl’s death, rather than a whodunnit. As you delve deeper into the fractured lives of the many narrators of the novel, Amber fades away and the significance of who or what was behind her death matters less and less. With rich and flawed characters, Cynthia Robinson crafts a novel that reflects on the effects of tragedy and the powerful secrets it unearths.

Birds of Wonder is available to buy now.

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