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Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me
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Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

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3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  37 reviews
A gift from an overseas relative, Graycie, an African Gray parrot, arrives in the Gardiner home not long after the birth of their first child, adding the responsibilities of parrot-hood to their newfound parenthood. Jenny Gardiner and her husband were hoping for a docile, beautifully plumed, Polly-want-a-cracker type of companion—but patchily feathered, scrawny, ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Gallery Books (first published February 22nd 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 308)
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Charise
I couldn't help but get annoyed with the author during the majority of the book. She kept going on about how she's such a great pet owner because she doesn't give her pets up, even though "anyone else would have given them up" in her situation. I'm sorry, but I sincerely hope that's not true, and the fact that she thinks it is, is very troubling.

This was especially annoying since the majority of the pet issues she was having were a direct result of her inadequate pet ownership. Of course if you
...more
Jennifer
Gardiner's pet memoir reads like a case for prosecution by the ASPCA. She desperately wants to pen an avian Marley & Me, but spends so little time with the titular parrot that she can only scrape together two or three anecdotes, which she repeats ad nauseum over the course of 238 pages. The rest of the book consists of her reminiscences of how darn hard her life is, juggling her multiple children and (unspayed!) dogs and (unspayed!) cats. Which, she repeatedly explains, is why her already d ...more
Beth
In her hilarious and thought provoking memoir, Jenny Gardiner flings open her door, invites us into her home, and introduces us to Graycie -- the family’s feisty and quirky African gray parrot. With lots of wit and moments of pure exasperation, Jenny tells the unadorned truth about what giving a home to a bird such as Graycie really entails, and it’s not what I ever imagined.

Besides being thoroughly entertaining and downright funny, Jenny’s memoir speaks of things that translate into lessons we
...more
Paula
Conflicted... Gardiner is an likable and honest author, but as a parrot "mom" I kept feeling angry at her. For a caring and intelligent woman, she really didn't step up to meet the bird's needs. They found one bird behaviorist who charged too much money, and thus gave up. How about doing more research and finding someone else? How about not getting more dogs, and putting more than 10% effort into the bird?

She probably speaks for a LOT of frustrated parrot parents, and I do sympathize with the f
...more
Cindy Smith
some parts were cute and funny, but mostly just cluelessly annoying. never happy with what they have, constantly taking on more than they can handle and everyone suffers. I mean, come on, who lets thier kid go on a ski trip 3 days after a trial weaning off of anti-seizure meds? and then are surprized when she seizes?.... thankfully at home and not on a ski lift.
Janet
I think it’s very admirable for the family not to give up on Graycie…but sometimes you have to do what’s best for the bird. I’m all for honoring a commitment, but not at the expense of the animal’s happiness. If you can’t afford to give the parrot the time and attention she needs, then maybe you should try to find her a home where she’ll receive that attention.
Lauren
Oh, I was so disappointed in this book! The title was so funny, but the story just wasn't there. It seemed like more than half of the book wasn't about the parrot at all, but a litany of medical crises that the family encountered over the years that they owned the parrot. And I never laughed at any of the parrot's antics: I felt like they were being reported to me, rather than making the reader part of the action, so I never became fully invested in the read.

This book made me sure I'd never own
...more
Gwen Bentley
I don't give 5Stars to books often, but this one was hilarious! I enjoyed every minute of it and was sorry when it ended! I learned a great deal about parrots, but I never noticed that I was learning because I was trying not to pee my pants while laughing hysterically at the book! I will definitely be looking for more by this author! Also, I will never, EVER be getting a parrot as a pet! I give this a GREAT recommendation!
Ann Wilbert
I couldn't finish this book because I was so disgusted with the people in it. The fact that they were raising a wild caught African Gray was bad enough, but everything they did was wrong. They let the bird fly around, and then clipped his wings themselves - are you crazy? It just made me mad.
The people that like this book do not own a parrot.
Diane
About the same time the author and her husband were beginning a family, Graycie, arrived from Zaire. It was the 80's and the African Gray parrot was a gift to the family from the author's brother-in-law. Little did the couple know, that although Grays are known to be great talkers, not ALL are friendly birds, and many of them outlive their owners. The author shares, in her brutally honest memoir, the many many hazards of parrot ownership. From constantly cleaning up sticky bird poop with feather ...more
Plantgrrl
There were funny bits. Not sure I would read again. Gardiner has a tendency to ramble. Though she admits to having too much on her plate, and indeed sometimes devotes whole chapters to the "reasons" why she gives her bird benevolent neglect, this is more a memoir of Mrs. Gardiner's life that *happens* to contain a parrot, then a humorous tale of a person winning over an ill-tempered parrot. She willingly admits that she doesn't spend enough time with the bird (though she does try to make it happ ...more
Fiona
I liked this book better by the end than I thought I was going to at the beginning. It was hard at times to get past some of the stories and not conclude that the author has less than common sense. For example: who thinks it will be okay to transport a cat in a pillowcase? Who keeps a cat without getting it neutered? Who thinks the best way to introduce two strange cats is to lock them into a bathroom together?

As far as the parrot side of the story goes, it was also hard to read at times. Even a
...more
Lucy
I'm not even interested in finishing; I know her determination not to give up is supposed to be laudable, but over and over and over again we see that the family just doesn't have time to properly care for a bird. Meanwhile we repeatedly hear how busy she is because she's a mom! Life is crazy because she's a mom! No time for the bird because she's a mom! Does the oldest child suffer the same fate the bird does because she kept having more?
Amy Palmer
Jun 19, 2010 Amy Palmer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: animal lovers, bird lovers
Recommended to Amy by: BlueberryCat and KayakGal from Twitter
Shelves: pets-animals, to-buy
The title of this book is a little misleading. Although there are several chapters that focus on Graycie, the African Gray parrot that the Gardiner family lives with, this book is really about Jenny Gardiner's entire family and the ups and downs that come along with three kids and more than a handful of pets.

There are many stories told-some funny, some touching-most of which make me think this woman is a glutton for punishment! She and her family seem to take everything in stride though. She nev
...more
Aspasia
I am an animal lover but after reading this book there is no way I want to get an African gray parrot. Jenny and Scott Gardiner inherited a wild and scared baby parrot after they were already dealing with a dog (who was allergic to the Earth) and a newborn. Grayce never "tamed" and had an irascible personality (imagine a grumpy homicidal teenager in a bird's body). While dealing with their parrot's personality they had to deal with her nasty mess (food slung everywhere; trails of poo if they let ...more
Linda B
Winging It is an entertaining story of the author's family and their experience with an ornery parrot. Anyone who thinks they want to buy a parrot should read this book FIRST. Although I never had a large bird (as many as 21 zebra finches), I understood her description of the mess that birds make and the methods that bird owners will devise to keep the mess easier to clean.

The author is very honest about her difficulties with caring for this demanding bird while at the same time dealing with dif
...more
Sean Martin
This book was incredibly frustrating. Basically it's a wonderful recipe for how not to raise a parrot and I find find the author's apparent lack of research into parrot care over the 20 years of owning the bird baffling.
Amy Bourret
Okay, I admit it. I am not particularly a bird lover. Tippi Hedron has nothing on me. A song bird outside my window, that's fine. But I've been known to scream, cringe, hit the ground when those black birds congregate in one tree. And inside birds, forget it; they really creep me out. So why am I giving this book about a parrot 5 stars? Because it is SO much more than a book about a parrot. It is about family and everyday life. It is sharp, well-written, poignant at times and hilarious at others ...more
Rose
Little-known fact about me: I used to have a mad love for parrots when I was a kid, reading dozens of books and countless magazines about them, taking care of my budgies, and dreaming of having a large, "proper" parrot of my own one day. I still have a deep affection for them, and when I read about this book I knew I had to try it.

As much a memoir about family as it is about the parrot who's a part of hers (her family, I mean), this book alternated between making me laugh and making me cry. High
...more
Angie
I was expecting a book about a bird – or at least more about pets – this is more of a family memoir, if anything. It was also tedious reading over and over again that ‘we should have done this’/’we knew we should do this’ and it never gets done, so the problems keep happening. In the end it sounds like the author is whining about how difficult the bird is, even though a lot of the behavior sounds like it is related to care. I have a special needs pet myself, so I know it is difficult, but when I ...more
Jan
I recently read a novel where one of the characters kept a parrot. The fictional parrot was beautiful, loyal, graceful, somewhat prissy and a little eccentric. Quite different from the real bird in this book.

There are a lot of 'issues' with a real life parrot, starting with where you get (wild caught or from a breeder both seem to be bad options.) Then you have to consider what to do about a high maintenance pet that could outlive you. This book should be a Must Read for anyone considering addi
...more
Kimberly
As a bird owner and lover, many parts of this book made me frustrated/depressed. Yes it had some funny moments, but I felt bad for the bird ("vicious" or not).
4fabfelines Cox
FREAKING funny book about a near psycho bird.. She loves me, she loves me not...
Graycie is a african grey with mental problems and a nervous disorder. When she is not pulling out feathers, bleeding to death she is attack the hand that feeds her. This is a funny memoir of this family and their hilarious animal menagerie.. Gracie at the forefront. Through three childrens' birth to college Graycie is there for it all and intertaining all along the way.
Esther
Oct 08, 2012 Esther rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: for lovers of crazy pets and light-hearted memoirs
This is actually closer to a 3.5
I did expect it to be funnier but maybe I have matured and just don't find chaotic creatures so amusing anymore.
It was an easy read. A fun, well written memoir about the authors escapades with both her family and her pets.
At times it seemed incredible that this family never seemed to learn their lesson and constantly took on even more troublesome pets. But they seemed to have survived happy and intact.



Ellen Bell
This book had a Marley-like feel to it, though at time it became a little tedious, with many of the chapters repeating similar stories over and over. Overall, I appreciated the primary message of the book, though, which is this: When you get a pet, you are committing to that animal for its life. In other words, don't take pet ownership lightly; it's a big responsibility!
Barb
I enjoyed this book. Many laugh out loud moments. I have ALWAYS wanted an African Grey Parrot, now after reading Graycie's story, I am glad I don't have one! I will stick to my Cockatiel and Parrotlet - they are enough bird for me! This is an easy read and an eye opening look at life with a wild Parrot. Recommended for anyone who loves birds.
Anna Wittman
I have to admit, I couldn't finish this book. The author strikes me as one of those vapid, self absorbed people that only wanted an exotic pet as a way of stroking her own ego. Almost three hundred pages of a totally ignored parrot... no wonder it's cranky!
Brenda Johnston
The timeline is all over the map, so that part is rather aggravating and unnecessary. The bird parts are pretty funny. Between kids, pets, the parrot, their family life is thrown into total disarray. The book felt like a lot more could have been said.
Serena
My rating if half stars were available would be 3-1/2 stars. I enjoyed the book - but it did have some slow parts that I scanned through. I came away from this book never wanting to own a bird!
Patricia
I have no idea why this woman acquired (and subsequently kept) her parrot. What a whiny, complaining, frustrated author. An uninteresting life, a bad bird and a sad book.
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Award-winning author Jenny Gardiners work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPRs Day to Day. She likes to say she honed her fiction writing skills while working as a publicist for a US Senator. Other jobs have included: an orthodontic assistant (learning quite readily that she was not cut out for a career in polyester), a waitress (probably her highest-paying job), ...more
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