Not every story has a happy ending.
Since her brother's death, eight-year-old Egg Murakami has been living day-to-day on the family ostrich farm near Bittercreek, discovering life to be an ever-perplexing condition. Mama Murakami has curled up inside a bottle, and Papa has exiled himself to the barn with the birds. Big sister Kathy tells stories to Egg so that the world might not seem so awful.
The Murakami family is not happy. But in the hands of Tamai Kobayashi, their story becomes a drama of rare insight and virtuosity. Weighing physical, cultural, and emotional isolation against the backdrop of schoolyard battles and adult mysteries, Kobayashi paints a compelling portrait of a feisty and endearing outsider.
As Kathy's final year in high school counts down to an uncertain future, the indomitable Egg sits quiet witness to her unravelling family as she tries to find her place in a bewildering world.
"As a harrowing account of a child's (and a family's) nine tumultuous and educational months, Prairie Ostrich ably introduces an inquisitive heroine simply trying to make order from daily chaos. If that child's ultimate actions ravage her home still more, they also suggest that hope can and change can sometimes be extracted from hopeless circumstances. "
"This first-time novel is one of the most powerful I've ever read. Kobayashi. .. has crafted one hell of a mesmerizing novel. . .. I highly recommend this beautiful novel!"
"Prairie Ostrich's unique and vulnerable characters pull the reader into their world. ..not an easy book to read, and the author's refusal to reassure us with pat, comfortable, happily-ever-after outcomes sets it apart, and commands respect. ..[it's] evocative, poetic language, and resonant, dynamic characters make it an urgent and memorable, thought-provoking work. "
"In Prairie Ostrich, Kobayashi has drawn a compelling young character, Egg Murakami, who guides us through the fault lines and intersections of family, loss, and otherness. This novel is for anyone who has spent time on the outside, looking in. "
— Wayson Choy
"Although Tamai Kobayashi relentlessly delves into the world of a brilliant child bullied and misunderstood as an Outsider, a surprising tenderness is shared among her lost and even darkest characters. This is a truly fine and compassionate work. "
— Wayson Choy
"Kobayashi's prose is as clear as a stream, with a current that brings the reader right along with it. Prairie Ostrich navigates the moment that a child transitions from ignorance to awareness, from a protective eggshell that denies her knowledge and which she must break. In Kobayashi's hands, this realization is compassionate and hopeful — even at its most upsetting and sorrowful. "
"Kobayashi's novel is immediately noteworthy in its lyricism. Despite the youthful narrative perspective, her life is rendered through a poeticism that exerts a dream-like quality over the fictional world. "
— Jael Richardson
"By turns harrowing and hilarious, this exquisitely crafted story stunned me with its insights into childhood loss, cruelty and triumph. Egg may be small but her sassiness and steadfastness make her huge and indomitable. I loved this novel. "
— Kyo Maclear
"Alberta's prairie landscape is brought to life with Kobayashi’s beautiful imagery and descriptive writing. Prairie Ostrich is an insightful story into the psychology of troubled families and the slow road to the recovery and re-connection of the family members. Kobayashi's characters are believable. "
"No wonder Tamai Kobayashi was recently awarded the Writers' Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize to a promising LGBT writer. I'd call Prairie Ostrich exceptional even if it weren't a debut novel. Kobayashi's pristine prose evokes both the Alberta terrain and Egg's emotional landscape as she makes the transition from naiveté to awareness. The author so expertly mines the metaphor of the ostrich that can never fly away, and Egg is superbly drawn, perceptive beyond her age yet young enough to be perplexed by mindless hate. Prairie Ostrich is compelling work. "
"This is a quiet, powerful story. .. it's a heart-breaking story. .. a thought-provoking book, and one that makes you feel deeply for the people involved. "
"Prairie Ostrich is the kind of novel you want your friends and your book club to read so you can talk about everything … Kobayashi's story is both current and universal. .. Prairie Ostrich conveys the bewilderment of Canadian culture through the eyes of a hopeful, compelling outsider with writing that employs the kind of carefully constructed prose that characterizes great Canadian novels. "
— Jael Richardson