Why Birds Sing

By Nina Berkhout

Why Birds Sing
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For fans of Amy Jones

A deeply felt novel about human connection and finding music between the notes from the author of The Gallery of Lost Species, a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel

“Capturing the joy that’s brought through camaraderie and passion, Why Birds Sing ... Read more


Overview

 

For fans of Amy Jones

A deeply felt novel about human connection and finding music between the notes from the author of The Gallery of Lost Species, a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel

“Capturing the joy that’s brought through camaraderie and passion, Why Birds Sing is an inspiring novel focused on the power of connections. ” — Foreword Reviews

When opera singer Dawn Woodward has an onstage flameout, all she wants is to be left alone. She’s soon faced with other complications the day her husband announces her estranged brother-in-law, Tariq, is undergoing cancer treatment and moving in, his temperamental parrot in tow. To make matters worse, though she can’t whistle herself, she has been tasked with teaching arias to an outspoken group of devoted siffleurs who call themselves the Warblers. Eventually, Tariq and his bird join the class, and Dawn forms unexpected friendships with her new companions. But when her marriage shows signs of trouble and Tariq’s health declines, she begins questioning her foundations, including the career that she has worked so hard to build and the true nature of love and song.

 

Nina Berkhout

Nina Berkhout is the author of two previous novels: The Mosaic, which was nominated for the White Pine Award and the Ottawa Book Awards and named an Indigo Best Teen Book, and The Gallery of Lost Species, an Indigo and Kobo Best Book and a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel. Berkhout is also the author of five poetry collections, including Elseworlds, which won the Archibald Lampman Award. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, she now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Excerpt

 

“We’re the Warblers,” the tuning fork woman said. This time she wore suspenders over her lumberjack shirt. From afar she was probably often mistaken for a man, until she spoke. Her stockiness didn’t match her voice.

 

“Is that your band?” I asked.

 

The redhead stiffened and adjusted her lime cuffs, which glared brightly against her white arms. “We’re a registered organization dating to 1950. During our heyday we had over two hundred members. ”

 

“We’re what’s left,” The old man added, toasting a cookie at me. He ate from a box in his lap.

 

“Why whistling?” I asked.

 

They stared. I stared back.

 

“Because it feels good,” the wrestler said. “And it’s free. ” He gave a wide smile and shoved his hands under his armpits.

 

“Whistling’s not my profession,” I told them.

 

“We know you sang,” the teenager grinned.

 

“I still do,” I replied.

 

They shot each other knowing looks before turning back to me.

 

“We thought you could counsel us for our upcoming Biennial,” the old man said.

 

I asked for clarification.

 

“There are local chapters like ours across the country. ” The redhead spoke slowly, as if I were a child. “We meet up every second year. There’s a competition and we need help winning. Because Jojo here, despite her family connections, never pulls through. ”

 

“I thought you did this to feel good,” I said.

 

The redhead stood with her hands on her waist. “I want my trophy. Everyone steers clear of opera for the classical component of the contest. That’s our in. ”

 

“Why would they avoid opera?” I asked.

 

“Well, It’s so…”

 

“So what?”

 

“Loud,” she said.

 

“She means over the top,” the teenager added.

 

“It’s the acting that’s unfortunate,” the old man said. “Do they not equip you lot with lessons?”

 

Reviews

 

“Capturing the joy that’s brought through camaraderie and passion, Why Birds Sing is an inspiring novel focused on the power of connections. ” — Foreword Reviews

“A bratty parrot, a group of whistlers, an opera singer who doesn’t sing — it’s impossible not to be charmed by the characters who inhabit Nina Berkhout’s Why Birds Sing. But this novel offers so much more than just a loveable, quirky cast of misfits, and Berkhout writes with an uncommon compassion and an uncanny understanding of what it means to be human.  Why Birds Sing is an ode to the families we choose, and the love that chooses us (whether we want it to or not. ) This is a beautiful novel full of humour, warmth, sorrow, and above all, music. ” — Amy Jones, author of We’re All In This Together and Every Little Piece of Me

“An exuberant novel about the possibilities of song and community. Told with tenderness, Why Birds Sing explores life’s unexpected connections and the ways we care for and protect the people we love. Above all, Nina Berkhout reminds us that a life crisis is also a bridge, like the break in a song, carrying us past one part of our life and into the future. Like any great opera, it’s packed with a vibrant cast — star-crossed lovers, travelling whistlers, and one unforgettable bird. ” — Claire Tacon, author of In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo

“I really loved this book for its quiet grace, subtle humour and its quirky cast of characters . . . Nina Berkhout has written a gorgeous, multi-layered novel that illustrates the beauty that can be revealed when the collapsing of one life leads to the building of another. ” — Urban Info Girl blog

 

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