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The Hummingbird

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,459 Ratings  ·  330 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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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


"We live our lives on a whole planet, seeing and learning and going from place to place. But eventually there arrives a time for each of us, when our world becomes smaller: one house, one floor of that house, and near the end, one room, one little room to which our whole gigantic life has been reduced. And when that happens . . . that room becomes sacred. It is the holy, modest place in which we will perform perhaps the hardest task of our life: letting it go."

At present, I have not the composu
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
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
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
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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.

Debbie Noxon
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest works I've ever read.... wow....
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.
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
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deborah Birch, is a hospice nurse, in Portland, Oregon. She is very good at her job, but her home life is a mess. Her mechanic husband, has returned from Iraq, after serving three deployments. He is not the same man she married and he is tormented by many horrors. This may be the biggest challenge of her life.
Adding to her woes, is her current patient, Barclay Reed, a retired history professor, who is a crabby, self-absorbed jerk, who is dying from kidney cancer. Their relationship deepens, as D
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
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
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, audible
I hesitated in starting this book. I'm a hospice social worker and the last thing I want to do is read about what I do every day....
I kept waiting for the account of hospice to be incorrect...
I loved this book. It was spot on ( except for the skinny dipping )
It made me look at my job from a different perspective.
Shelley Gammage
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! I must admit I skipped over some of the historical parts of a couple of chapters because I was so eager to get back to Nurse Birch's story. I finally caught on. Loved the story and the surprises.
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.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
What I enjoyed most about this book is the history of WWII and the small town of Brookings, Oregon. I thought the fictionalized tale of Ichiro Soga was unusually gracious and humane, and I like that it's set against the backdrop of the actual bombing that went on during that time. I looked forward to every visit Soga made to Brookings after the end of the war, and how he surprised me each time. I always expected something horrible to happen, and instead it was something remarkable and so graciou ...more
Suzette Marengo
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of a hospice nurse who is trying to help one man die in peace and another man (her husband) live in peace. Excellent book. Well worth reading!
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
My personal "star" rating system:
1 star: Could not finish the book
2 star: Had to force myself to finish the book, did not care for the book, and will not be seeking out this author in the future
3 star: Liked the book, but will not necessarily be seeking out this author in the future
4 star: Really liked the book and would read more of this author, but will not be re-reading this particular book again
5 star: Loved it so much that I will re-read this book in the future, and the author is going onto
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
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deborah is a hospice nurse. And a good one at that. In fact, she's the one they call for tough situations - like Professor Barclay Reed, who fired his last two caregivers and has all the volunteers on edge. In spite of the odds, Deborah is able to get through to him, cracking the armor no one has been able to get past.

But Deborah's success at work hasn't carried through to home of late. After three tours overseas, her husband has returned angry and unable to open up to his wife. Deborah isn't r
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Play Book Tag: The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan - 3.5 2 10 Apr 29, 2018 07:24AM  
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Stephen P. Kiernan's new novel, THE BAKER'S SECRET, will be out May 2, 2017.

This novel is the story of D-Day from the French perspective: how the people lived under Nazi occupation, and how they believed the Allies would never come. Led by Emma, a 22-year-old who is determined to help her fellow villagers survive, this is not a story of armies and battles, but of people struggling to keep hope ali
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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.” 5 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.”
More quotes…