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The Hummingbird

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,371 ratings  ·  465 reviews
From the author of the acclaimed The Curiosity comes a compelling and moving story of compassion, courage, and redemption

Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightm
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by William Morrow
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Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,371 ratings  ·  465 reviews

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Angela M
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Deborah Birch , a hospice nurse wants so much for her dying patients - a pain free death with dignity and peace and emotional healing. The story is quite sobering as it depicts the dying process of one man, Barclay Reed , a historian and former professor with a tarnished reputation . She also wants so much for her husband, Michael , a returning soldier with PTSD - a pain free life with dignity and peace and emotional healing . This is one of those stories that gets you in the gut as Deborah give ...more
Jun 22, 2016 added it
Shelves: fiction
Highly praised and recommended…
The Hook Author Stephen P. Kiernan was a speaker at Booktopia 2016 sponsored by Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. Though Kiernan was promoting this, The Hummingbird, his latest book, it was when he spoke about end of life issues, both of the living and the dying, that I knew I had to read his books.

The Line "It is a solid reminder that every patient, no mater how sick or impoverished, gives lasting gifts to the person entrusted with his care. " pg. 7

Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Hope and despair. Love and loss. Anger and acceptance. Aggression and surrender. These are all emotions that we as human beings will feel at some point in our lives and all are touched on in this quietly affirmative novel.

The Hummingbird is narrated in first person by Deborah Birch, a hospice nurse with years of experience caring for and standing by her patients as they leave the world. I believe it takes a special kind of person to do a job like that over and over again without spiraling into
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Without allowing spoiler alerts, I try to give an assessment of what I learned or what I liked about a novel when I write my reviews. Also, I try not to “re-do” the book jacket synopsis. Feelings on the novel are on the forefront.

That said, I thought THE HUMMINGBIRD did an excellent job of providing the reader information on a really good Hospice Care providers. In my personal history, both of my parents died of cancer, at different years. Both wanted to die at home and had hospice. I can say ou
I decided to devote most of my Saturday to reading, which is a pleasure I am rarely able to get away with and rarely find a novel I'm happy to spend so much uninterrupted time with. This book contains three stories in one - each is distinct yet connected, and they're all thought-provoking and relevant. You have one arc about hospice care and the death of an elderly professor and expert on the Pacific Theater of WWII, you have one arc about contemporary war veterans and the troubling effects of P ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A couple of years ago, author and journalist Stephen P. Kiernan made his fiction debut with his novel The Curiosity. That book, about a man reanimated from death, showcased Kiernan's aptitude for a creative character driven story that defied the confines of traditional genres and left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of readers. In his sophomore novel, The Hummingbird, Kiernan trades in the high concept premise of his debut for a more intimate narrative that is remarkably understated, b ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that it was the title that first drew me to this book as I love anything at all to do with hummingbirds. Although there was only a slight reference to the meaning of the title in the book, this gorgeous novel did not disappoint in any way.

There are actually three stories in this book. The first deals with a very caring hospice worker, Deborah Birch, and her work with a patient, Barclay Reed, who is a professor and expert on the Pacific Theater of World War II. Deborah is assigned
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Indie Next Sept '15
Oh, my! Oh, my! Oh, my!
I so loved this book. I truly believe only a sensitive soul could have written this book. It touched me deeply - perhaps because I had so many friends die this past year. If I say this is a love story, you will get the wrong impression. I truly believe that Deb, the protagonist, is completely motivated by love both for her husband and her patients - she is a hospice nurse. She learns from her latest patient ways to help her husband who suffers from PTSD.
I'm glad I own this
Debbie Noxon
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest works I've ever read.... wow.... ...more
This book has been languishing on my TBR since 2015. Thankfully a new book club I just joined had selected it for their December read.

I LOVED the book. Excellent Historical Fiction that revealed to me something I did not know before. Very strong character development with some unique (not all endearing, just unique!!) personalities.

This is the story of Deborah Birch, a hospice nurse; Michael, her husband, who has endured three tours of duty to Iraq and is suffering the consequences; and Barclay
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading the flap copy about the book, I was not particularly eager to read it. Hospice care is not a happy subject and sometimes, I need a happy book. Stephen P. Kiernan has done his topic justice and his writing kept me turning the pages until I was sadly finished with his wonderful characters. While a couple of his characters were less than nice, the others were beautifully written and realized. I wanted to go on their journey even though I knew where I was going and how it was going to end. H ...more
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to for the advanced uncorrected proof of The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan in return for my honest review.

I generally will not read morbidly depressing stories, regardless of their literary merit. Thus, I was hesitant about reading The Hummingbird as the subject matter of the book alternated between Hospice care and the rehabilitation of an Iraqi war veteran severely damaged emotionally during his third deployment. However, this book surprised me in the very best
Bonnie Brody
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
This might be a good book club read. However, it was not for me. The novel is about a hospice nurse named Debby Birch who is caring for Barclay Reed, a dying man who is an expert on World War II. He is cantankerous and difficult. By the time Debby comes to care for him, Barclay has gone through two other nurses and the other two hospice agencies in the area.

On the home front, Debby is dealing with a husband who has returned from two deployments and is a changed man. He suffers from PTSD and Debb
Kasa Cotugno
Deborah is a hospice nurse, a category that requires an understanding of human frailty and nature and requires a certain kind of strength to perform. Her husband, home from his third deployment in Iraq, is deeply affected by PTSD, and her newest work assignment is particularly challenging -- a disgraced Professor, expert on The Pacific Theater, who has chewed up and spit out her predecessors. Deborah's reserves and skills are tested by both aspects of her life. Kiernan's knowledge of the subject ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it liked it
How different this was! A soldier recently returned from his third deployment in Iraq has suffered lasting emotional damage. Together with his wife, he struggles to adjust. Part of the story is told by his wife, a hospice nurse. Her curmudgeon patient shares a piece of writing dear to his heart, and so the novel unfolds, alternating between the present day situation and the patient’s treatise. This is a work dealing with an actual Japanese attack on Oregon during WWII, and the ensuing reverberat ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Get ready to stay up way too late and get nothing done! This book is delicious!

The characters stories unfold and weave together so beautifully. They are the characters that stick with you for weeks on end and leave you desperately searching for another book to connect to. I felt like the entire book just poured out of Kiernan and loved the way it was organized and developed.

Megan Edwards
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
The writing was really clunky at times, and is there a couple alive who legit regularly call each other "lover"? I hope not. But, I thought the portrayal of PTSD was nuanced and eye opening, and I loved the bits of wisdom gained through hospice care. What a rewarding but I'm sure exhausting field. I thought the WWII background story was fascinating. ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I think my experience was affected by the fact that I also just finished reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a nonfiction book about aging and death and the difficult issues regarding care of the elderly. This novel was a perfect follow-up; the main character is a hospice nurse whose husband suffers from PTSD after 3 tours overseas. You can tell that the author has also written a book in the same lines as Gawande's from the way the characters intera ...more
Linda Lpp
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An emotionally rich book. All of the characters in this book were dealing with complex life changing issues. They learned from and came to the aid of each other (often in subtle, unassuming ways).
For a book that could very well have been overwhelmingly sad, that wasn't the case for me. There were varying degrees of closure and what was described as "loving lies". And amongst other things hope. I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book.
Char Lodl
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stephen Kiernan has a wonderful way of weaving his story by telling the tale of all his characters as if they each are the main one. And in the end you find you've learned something about yourself as well. The story of a hospice nurse hit home personally and helped me understand a little more the death of a loved one. It is definitely a story of hope and commitment. And once again an important story from ww2 that so many of us know nothing about. ...more
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
I think we all take each day of our life for granted. I believe it's because we firmly believe that there will be a tomorrow and the day after that until we grow old. But the people I think truly appreciate what they have are those that have to face a terminal diagnosis, knowing that tomorrow is never a guarantee for any of us. Stephen P. Kiernan has written an unforgettable novel that showcases three very unique relationships in The Hummingbird. It is written in alternating chapters, one in the ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Review also found at

**I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher William Morrow via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is September 8, 2015**

This is a story that hit a little close to home at the moment so I am not sure if I can give it a truly unbiased review. So this will be a short one.

This is a story of someone who is dying from a horrible disease and the caretaker whose job it is to stay with
Travel Writing
When I was a kid, our neighbor had a Russian nesting doll on her end-table. If she was in the mood, she would let me play with those dolls. Sitting on the floor at her and my mother's feet- I would nest and un-nest those dolls over and over: big, medium, small, smaller, tiny, tiny, smaller, small, medium, biggest.

It was one of my childhood delights and one of the few memories I hold for my own self, not a memory that was planted from photos or someone else's story that I absconded with.

The Humm
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this incredible story on audible. The performance was excellent! Stephen Kieran is a Master Story Teller. This is a story about loss, war, forgiveness that reaches deep into the heart. Highly recommend this incredible story!
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book did not grab me at all. The historical part was boring and I ended up skimming a lot. Not my cup of tea.
As a dedicated hospice nurse, Deborah Birch is compassionate, confident and skillful in helping her patients through their last struggles. As the wife of Michael, a 3-time deployed veteran of Iraq, Deb is less certain of her role in his life. Michael has turned cold, tortured by nightmares and the beginnings of violent behavior have begun to show. Deb feels helpless in her marriage but will try anything to reach the loving man she knows is still inside her husband.

Barclay Reed is Deb's latest pa
Jackie Selles
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fist of all, definitely written by a man, second, I enjoyed these quotes as well, so I copied them.

pg 16 - I believe the measure of a vow does not lie in saying it, or in upholding it when things are easy. The power of a promise is proven in times of difficulty, when keeping that pledge is hard. My husband was giving me ample opportunity to prove the strength of my vows.
pg 17 - It is a solid reminder that every patient, no matter how sick or impoverished, gives lasting gifts to the person entrus
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a thoughtful, thought provoking and beautiful book. The primary character, Deborah, is a brilliant hospice nurse finding her way through life, caught between two extenuating circumstances. At home she maneuvers the emotional ravages that militaristic war has imprinted on the mental and emotional state of her husband suffering from PTSD, after his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. At work she copes with an obstinate patient, who is at war with life as he suffers devastating effects of te ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend this book! The struggles with life, with war, with death all blended together in this book. And, once again (for me) a historical novel leads me to more research and reading. I never knew bombs were dropped in Oregon or that people died later because of that. I remember reading the the Pearl Harbor attack was foretold in a novel in 1925 but now have a resource to read. And hospice - personally experiencing it, very well described (they are angels on earth). I wasn't sure how all ...more
Patrick Barry
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booktopia
A finely crafted novel with a lot of heart. It features a disgraced college professor and his hospice nurse. Each can help each other with a problem. The nurse's husband has been traumatized by 3 tours of duty in Iraq and the college professor was unjustly accused of plagiarism. It takes a bit or work on the nurse's part to break down the barriers on the bitter old man, but she perseveres. The nurse's thoughts gives a great window into what it is like for a person to be in such a situation at ho ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan - 3.5 2 13 Apr 29, 2018 07:24AM  

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“We all have times when life intervenes and we get little done. But when our days are numbered, it feels like a kind of thievery. If there is ever a chapter in life with no time to waste, it is the last one.” 6 likes
“How old am I again?"
"You are seventy-eight, Professor."
He wagged his head. "How in the hell did that happen?"
"That you've lived so many years?"
"That they passed so quickly. As brief as lighting.”
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