Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: The Days When Birds Come Back by Deborah Reed

The Days When Birds Come Back is the story of June Byrne, who returns to her grandparents' home on the Oregon coast, in recovery and trying to recover from her broken marriage. She hires Jamison Winters to restore the bungalow, not knowing that his life is also a wreck.

June is not an easy heroine. On the one hand, she went through a lot as a kid and is damaged, still fragile, and sympathetic. On the other, she can be prickly, and she acts pretty nuts. In one of my favorite scenes, she overshares with Jamison, shouting to him over the phone that she is a “dry drunk.” It’s an expression I know well because I’ve worked with many recovering alcoholics, both as clients and co-workers. One of my former law partners (may he rest in peace) used to joke/not joke about himself that you can take the liquor out of a fruitcake, but you still have a fruitcake.

The book hit me hard because June reminds me so much of so many real people. Reed captures what it’s like to be around a former drinker trying to stop – that sense that what is going on on the outside is just a half step out of sync with what’s going on inside. Reed lets the story unfold without forcing June to be better than she is. And it is that tension in the pacing that makes The Days When Birds Come Back such a beautiful story of grief and kindness and love.


Read my interview of Deborah Reed.

The Days When Birds Come Back, is Reed's fourth novel. She has written three previous novels: Olivay, Things We Set on Fire, and Carry Yourself Back to Me, and two popular thrillers under the pen name Audrey Braun. Deborah splits her time between Germany, where she co-directs the Black Forest Writing Seminars at the University of Freiburg, and her home at the Oregon coast.

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