Book Reviews In Brief: Sparrow Migrations by Cari Noga
Contemporary fiction fans will want to read and re-read Cari Noga’s debut novel, Sparrow Migrations curled up with a cup of tea (I like oolong with jasmine), or with a glass of white in one hand. Her characters have heart, even during hard times. Noga uses multiple connected narratives to reach her readers; at least one of the stories is likely to resonate with you.
The Gist: Sparrow Migrations‘ multiple narratives begin with Robby and his parents Linda and Sam on a ferry in New York. Robby has autism, and Linda and Sam are still struggling to come to terms with what it means for their son, and their future as a family even while on vacation when they witness an emergency landing on the Hudson. Then the story shifts to Deborah and Christopher, an academic couple contemplating a final IVF cycle after their close call on the flight, and finally Brett, a pastor’s wife and mother in the midst of an affair with another pastor’s wife, also present on a ferry in the Hudson. Full of highs and lows that will make you laugh and cry, much like in traditional coming of age stories, Noga’s multiple protagonists (particularly Robby and his parents) grow and change, their paths increasingly intertwined as the story progresses. You’ll be rooting for them to pick themselves up after every fall, as they work to come to terms with who they and their loved ones really are.
The Best: This book is touching and beautifully written. The use of words and descriptions is skillfully and simply elegant. Facts about illnesses, places and birds are all well researched, and believable to non-expert eyes like our own. The dialogue and storylines make it hard to put the story down, even if you know things for your favorite character are going to get worse, far before they get better—and they’ll always be difficult.
The Worst: This isn’t a particularly happy or relaxing read. Not that all books are, or should be, but depending on your mood, and your purposes for your free-reading time, this might not be the book for you. It’s realistic contemporary fiction about real people going through real-life problems. If you’re even the least bit softhearted, parts of this story will have you in tears, which is a credit to the writing, really.
Some Favorite Quotes:
What would happen when she wasn’t—they weren’t– there to buffer Robby from the expectations of the neurotypical world?
From her gut, Deborah’s yearning yowled.
“ I was open to children, but not at any price. And we’ve paid a lot…”
“ I’m not your buddy. We don’t ever see each other.”
“But you must be busy—”
“I’m perfectly capable of managing my schedule, thank you for your concern.”
“’Parenthood isn’t the only route to a meaningful life.”
She often thought of Robby’s brain as a kaleidoscope. It spun. It fractured. It was fragile. Btu it was also beautiful and original and bright.
“That choices matter. And Life is short. When your time comes, all the choices you’ve made, your whole life long, will impact what happens next. So straighten out. Live a life you’ll be proud of.”
Jackie was herself, ten years younger. And like Brett had then, she would only manage to fool herself and waste time.
Theirs had to be the first food pantry seduction in history.
“But if you’re the one building it, you need more. You need drive. You need commitment. You need passion. And it has to come from within.”
He strode across the room, damning the urgent that once again usurped the important, as happened every day in the life of a public school teacher…
“Have you ever heard you learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it?”
“I’ve learned that when someone else depends on you, you take care of yourself. That’s how I coped. I knew you were counting on me to be there. You’ll always be my daughter. But you don’t need me like that anymore. It’s my chance to spread my wings. I hope someday you can understand why I have to do this now.”
A Midwesterner based in the Mediterranean most of the year, Chris Ciolli is a writer, translator and artist with two dangerous vices: books and travel. She lives in Barcelona with her husband, J., her cat Lulu, and mountains of books.