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An Ornithologist's Guide to Life: 06/22/09

The dedication to An Ornithologist's Guide to Life makes me tear up whenever I read it but it's important for putting the stories in context. The dedication reads: In loving memory of my daughter Gracie Belle / September 24, 1996-April 18, 2002.

The short stories in An Ornithologist's Guide to Life share the theme of family and loss. They aren't all about death and they aren't all about mothers and children but there is always a need for an intimate connection (through family, friendship, love) and a loss (either feared or actual).

Ann Hood creates memorable characters who linger longer after their stories end. There's a alcoholic woman who seduces a reverend nine years her junior and takes him spelunking. In another one, a pregnant woman recently separated from her husband bakes beautiful deserts to keep herself sane but doesn't eat what she creates. There is a friendship ended over an unwanted pregnancy. And so forth.

With the exception of one story, "Inside Gorbachev's Head" I enjoyed the book, connected with the characters and experienced the wide range of emotions that come with life. "Inside Gorbachev's Head" knocked me out of the moment though. It's the story of now grown children learning the truth behind the parties that went on in their home and next door. It's a much angrier and sensationalist piece than the other ones and it just doesn't seem to fit.

Despite the one disappointing story, I rated the book five out of five on GoodReads. It's a book that will stick with me and that I will consider giving as a gift in the future.

If you've reviewed this book on your blog, let me know and I will link to it.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, June, 23, 2009 at 22:59:34


I have this on my TBR list. I discovered Ann Hood last year and read her memoir, Comfort, about the death of her daughter. It was beautiful and so honest about grief. I currently have The Knitting Circle by Hood on my shelf to read.

Thanks for reminding me about this wonderful writer.

Comment #2: Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 21:16:43


I will keep Comfort in mind for future reading.

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