Book Review: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martins Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

My Thoughts:

Sigh. This book was beautifully fantastic. I loved it so much! Just everything about it, every detail, every character, every surprise revealed, was perfect.

Zoey is filled with youthful enthusiasm, dreams, and gumption. She moves into The Dellawisp hoping to learn more about her deceased mother, but is also looking for community, for a sense of belonging, friendship, and she is determined that the residents of The Dellawisp will become that for her. Her character’s life was not all roses all the time, but she is filled with optimism and fun that is hard to deny.

Her neighbors are a quirky lot. There is Charlotte, a bohemian spirit and henna artist, Mac, a James Beard award winning chef who is known for his use of cornmeal, the Lime sisters who maintain separate apartments and don’t interact, and Frasier, the caretaker. They each have their own stories, the stories that have defined them up until now, full of love and love lost, full of shadows with rays of light.

The Dellawisp itself is a magical place. It has been a sheltering comfort for those that live there, hidden behind the main street that smells of sugar, with its special birds that exist only there, in that one place. Until Zoey arrives, and shakes things up in her own sweet way.

I don’t want to delve too much further into this story here, because I don’t want to give anything away. But this book made me smile and and cry and I was under the spell of its beauty the entire time I read it. When it ended, I wanted more and I sincerely hope that Allen visits this world and these characters again in a future book.

Before I wind this up though, lets talk about the food in this book. I love when food and memory and love are intertwined through the pages of a book. I think so many of us have food based memories – I know that I do. I think of my grandmother and my uncle when I make coconut tarts and Empire biscuits; hot cocoa on snowy days, the chicken and stars soup and Vernors that my mom would make me when I was sick – I could seriously go on and on. And in this book food is wound up here and there and everywhere, but most of all with Mac, whom I adored. I was so inspired by this book that I actually spent five hours the other day cooking and baking, standing in the kitchen barefoot and cooking up Carolina Chicken Bog and Plum Berry Cornmeal Cake. And dang, was everything so delicious! We will be eating the chicken bog for days and I have been eating the cornmeal cake for breakfast and it tastes amazing paired with my cup of coffee.

I absolutely adored and loved this book! I actually can’t wait to read it all over again.