“Maybe I thought that if I just collected enough words, I could totally rewrite myself one day.”
“Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drape over our ghosts so we can see them.”
Sarah Addison Allen’s Other Birds (St. Martin’s Press 2022) is full of whimsy and the best kind of magic. Set in the quaint coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, this found family novel of secrets and shame, love and second chances is as sweet as the confections the town’s fame was built on. The novel alternates POVs between the living and the ghosts.
Named for the small turquoise birds that flit about the gardens, the Dellawisp is comprised of five condos managed by Frasier, a man with a few secrets of his own. Estranged and equally tormented sisters, Lucy and Lizbeth Lime, claim two units. Mac, a local chef haunted by a ghost who sprinkles cornmeal in his sleep, and Charlotte, a local henna artist haunted by her past, claim the other two. The fifth belongs to Zoey, an 18-year-old who inherited the condo from her mother. Her mother died when she was a child, and her father and his new family couldn’t wait for her to reach the age of majority so they could continue their picture-perfect existence without her. Zoey, with an invisible bird named Pigeon, has come to feel closer to the family she’d lost, but she ends up with so much more. They all do.
After Lizbeth dies, Zoey is hired to clean out the condo. She reaches out to Lizbeth’s son, but Oliver wants nothing to do with his mother’s items; he’d grieved her years before. But the more Zoey talks to him, the more he finds himself wanting to come home. To the Dellawisp. To Frasier.
It’s a heart-hug of a novel that reminds us family isn’t just blood, some secrets should stay buried, and that the world is just a bit sweeter with a little magic and a lot of good food.
Read this book.