Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Flyaway, a Book Review
What do you do when a past time becomes a passion and then an obsession? In the book, Flyaway, Suzie Gilbert discovers how her love for birds can take over your life. Writing with a humorous and poetic voice we follow her change from a woman concerned with birds and wildlife to a woman obsessed with trying to save the world. On her journey of love she loses herself only to find her way back on the wings of a crow named George.
Suzie’s story starts with her desire to rehab birds. As the mother of two elementary school children she has to balance bird rehab and motherhood. Thus she finds herself at the pool or lacrosse games with baskets of baby birds being hand fed every half hour while she watches her children play. In her house it is not unusual to find a heron in the bathroom or a peregrine perched on her bedroom door. Ducks splash in the bath tub and the laundry room becomes songbird central. Chaos reigns as she tries to restore order to the natural world.
Throughout the book as Suzie fights her way through the trials of wildlife rehabilitation. She soon discovers there is never enough time, money or other wildlife rehabbers to stem the flow of injured and orphaned birds. In her quest to save them all she breaks her own rules one by one until she is lost in ensuing flood of need. While her children initially enjoy the menagerie that fills the house soon the family suffers from the toll it takes on their mother. When Suzie finds herself haunted by dark dreams of dead and dying birds she finally realizes she has to draw the line somewhere. But when she closes down her rehab center she discovers that she also loses herself.
Flyaway is a captivating story of how one woman tries to right the wrongs of humankind against the natural world. I was caught up in each bird’s story and how it affected Suzie and her family. I laughed at some of the antics she went through trying to rescue wild animals and save birds. I wanted to cry with her when certain birds could not be saved. When Suzie flees to the woods for solace I could feel myself running with her and I imagine her like young Jody in the 1946 MGM movie “The Yearling” running through the forest with flocks of birds instead of a herd of deer.
One of the most import aspects of the book to me is the emphasis on habitat preservation for wildlife. While wild rehabbers can only save one bird at a time, preserving habitat saves generations to come. Flyway is certainly worth reading for its stories, both tragic and funny, for educating oneself about what bird rehabilitators do, and for the story a woman who tries to find balance in her life and in her soul. Suzie sums it up best when she says, “We crave a connection—no matter how brief or tenuous—with a wild creature, and we are willing to play by rules that seem designed to break our hearts in order to do it.”