Thursday, May 15, 2014
Nightingale's Nest, by Nikki Loftin
The book's first sentence sums up the story to a great degree: "When I first heard Gayle, I couldn't tell if she was a bird or a girl." Indeed, in this tale of magical realism, we are never sure. Her hair is soft as down, she "perches" and "hops like a wren," she's so light that possibly her bones are hollow. But the central story is Little John's, as he tries to dig himself out of a mountain of regret only to compound it. And when he faces a choice between betraying Gayle (as he, in a sense, betrayed his sister) or helping what's left of his family survive, he's facing a truly wrenching dilemma.
Based on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Nightingale," this is an emotionally affecting book with gorgeous writing, complex characters, a strong theme of forgiveness, and more richness than I can convey here. I would not be at all surprised if this novel becomes an award contender. While some readers may struggle with the sadness in the book, I never found it overwhelmingly gloomy, and it is balanced by the magic, and the ending. Highly recommended.