Other Birds

St. Martin’s. Sept. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781250019868. $27.99. F
Allen (First Frost) returns after a seven-year break with a novel that gathers ghosts and lost souls on Mallow Island, SC. On what was once a rice plantation, where the echoing voices of enslaved people can still be heard, on what became a candy-making powerhouse, where sugar still scents the air, and where a man once wrote a book that sustains the island’s tourist industry, sits the Dellawisp, a tiny apartment block occupied by thieving turquoise birds. The human occupants are just as interesting: a talented chef who grew up in the poorest part of the island; a college freshman who inherited her mother’s apartment; a henna artist desperate for safety; two sisters living both feet and miles apart; and three ghosts and the caretaker who can see them. In prose not quite as lavish as in her earlier novels, but with the same keen skill building characters and crafting dialogue, Allen unfolds the histories of these people, slowly braiding their lives together in a quiet, resonant story about holding on, letting go, and finding home.
VERDICT Languid and peaceful, gentle and comforting, Allen’s newest showcases her talent for tender stories of near magic. Her fans will be lining up for this.
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