Author: Elise Broach
Stars: ★★ (2 stars)
Magical realism is hard to pull off. Depending on an author’s approach, it can feel very heavy handed, and when that happens, I often wonder why the author doesn’t just go full out into fantasy. Animal perspectives in magical realism (like object perspectives) are fine. The complicated human-like family structure of a bird family lost me. I understand Broach likely thought this would feel relatable, but making the birds have certain thoughts about aspects of themselves like coloring just struck me as entirely human.
These are birds. Magical realism can wipe away Mirabelle still sharing a nest well after a bird would separate from their parents (colonies are not the same as the same nest!!), but if you give them human level intelligence, they would be brought up with an entirely different social perspective than our own. Male birds do the dances, show off bright colors, etc. Considering fame isn’t a concept for birds (and the author does not successfully rationalize why Mirabelle wants this), her introduction and envy over her brothers had me almost wondering if we were going to get a lesbian finch. Jealous of her brothers’ brighter coloring, wanting to sing more complicated songs — trans, maybe?
But I digress. All the above is to say that if you like magical realism done subtly, this is not your book. The story itself (outside of Mirabelle) was actually interesting, and I wanted to get into the mystery more, but her perspective repeatedly took me out.
Broach obviously did research, and she does herself a disservice with the POV, but as this is an issue I have with magical realism in general, there may be those of you who can ignore the idiosyncrasies and push onward. I imagine those are the same as the ones who watched the Star Wars prequel trilogies and didn’t want to launch Jar Jar Binks through a wall. Only the ‘drunken master’ theory saved that character for me. That being said, Trans!Mirabelle theory got me through the book, but there’s no evidence in the book beyond the opening jealousy of Mirabelle’s brothers which is brushed aside as a desire for fame