Bird sits firmly in the magical realism category: an unusual melange of cultures, folklore, and grief all revolving around the death several years past of a little boy. The author flirts with the mysticism issues, always playing coy but never really answering the question of the reasons (supernatural or real) behind the boy’s tragic loss.
Story: Jewel has lived in the shadow of her brother’s death for over a decade now. She never knew her brother – she was born on the day he died. But her grandfather refused to talk ever again after giving the boy the ill-fated nickname of bird (the boy tried to fly off a cliff). Her superstitious Jamaican father is sure the faeries cursed his son and her practical Mexican-heritaged mother just wants the folk stories to go away. Then Jewel meets a young boy claiming to have the same name as her lost brother; is this the work of the supernatural?
The setting/scene for the book is a very unusual mix of Jamaican, Mexican, and Iowan references. The Jamaican folklore plays as much a part as the Mexican (Jewel fears the Jamaican spirits but also keeps a good luck Xolo dog). But ironically, this is more the story of the family finally coming to terms with the loss of Bird through the catharsis of the ‘new’ John.
There are a few surprises along the way as Jewel learns more about her friend and her family. And ultimately, this is her story as she navigates her unusual life.
Reviewed from an ARC.