Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds

18 Aug

I am never disappointed in a book by Susie Finkbeiner. Her stories are told with such heart. Every book becomes my most favorite, and The Nature of Small Birds is no exception! It is very highly recommended!

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels). 

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018). 

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

My Impressions:

When I open a novel by Susie Finkbeiner I always know that I will be swept away by wonderful storytelling. Her latest book, The Nature of Small Birds, is an example of her finest writing. I was immediately captivated by a small town family who lived and loved large. The book is told in three first person points of view in three different decades. Sound confusing? It isn’t! Each character has a distinct voice, and the time in which each story is set is easily recognizable. What I imagine was very daunting to write, comes together well to show a complete picture of the family. Inspiration for the story was the Babylift program following the fall of Saigon. It is an integral part of each thread, but it’s not all this book is about. Complex themes of belonging, identity, and faithful love are explored in such a natural way that the reading of this book was effortless. I just could not put it down! All the characters are going to stay with me a long time. Real, with flaws fully on display, they are a microcosm of the world at large and our own individual struggles, prejudices, doubts, regrets, and hope. My words are certainly inadequate to describe this book (common for me when a book really touches my heart), so I will leave you with this — Read. This. Book!

Beautifully and skillfully written with unforgettable characters, universal themes, and just a darn good story, The Nature of Small Birds is very highly recommended.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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