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The Birds of Opulence

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  104 reviews
From the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street comes an astonishing new novel. A lyrical exploration of love and loss, The Birds of Opulence centers on several generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with and sometimes surrender to madness. The Goode-Brown family, led by matriarch and pillar ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by University Press of Kentucky
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Connie G
"The Birds of Opulence" is a lyrical novel about four generations of women in an African-American family in Kentucky. They love each other, but worry about inherited mental illness. The stain of rape and illegitimate children has come down upon the Goode-Brown family and the nearby Clarks. Everyone in the rural town of Opulence knows everyone else's secrets, but they also provide a sense of community. The men in Opulence range from the helpful, caring Joe Brown to the men that casually use and ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
More like 4.5 stars.

In The Birds of Opulence, Crystal Wilkinson takes the reader to a home in small town Opulence, Kentucky inhabited by four generations of Black women: great grandma Minnie Mae, Grandma Tookie, Mama Lucy, and baby of the family, Yolanda. Each woman is touched by trauma or mental illness, having either caused it or grappled with it their entire lives. The men in their lives, Lucy's husband who is a salve, and Yolanda's big brother Kevin, who makes space for himself with any
J. Schlenker
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to hear a reading from the book by the author. I was captivated by the rich language and Appalachian culture. The writing was inspirational and a learning experience. The stories of the women from two families were raw and truthful, delivered by the author's excellent prose.
Brown Girl Reading
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: African-American Women Author lovers
If you don’t know how much mad love I have for Crystal Wilkinson’s writing, you’re going to hear all about it in this review of The Birds of Opulence, newly released in March 2016. The story explores life in small town Opulence, focalizing on the Goode-Brown family. The four generations of women, led by the spirited and strong-minded Minnie Mae. For more.....
Sarah Holton
This book is beeeeeeeeautiful. I don’t normally read a lot of litfic because I have to be in a very particular kind of mood and that doesn’t happen very often, but boyhowdy am I that this book was here when the mood struck. This is the kinda book where in 2 years I’m not really gonna remember any character names or what happened but as I move through life, lines or feelings from this book are gonna bubble up. It’s gonna stick in my stomach like oatmeal. And I love oatmeal.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
My first wilkinson read. I Love This .
John Bunyan
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel-other
Crystal Wilkinson develops a vivid sense of the people and the places in this story. The language is lyrical and the imagery captivating. The main criticism I have is that the book is too short. You get to know the women who drive the story, their family, and the people of Opulence and you care about them. Then it is over and you want to know what happened to Yolanda and Mona and Kee Kee. I recently have read a couple 500 page books that should have been 200. This 200 page book should have been ...more
Jim Minick
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's a beautiful nest of stories.
Crystal Hurd
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This book. This book is phenomenal. Crystal Wilkinson writes lush, vivid prose which pulled me in from the first paragraph. This book makes me want to write. It makes me aspire to create worlds that bloom off of the page. Dear Lord, why aren't more people talking about this book? Affrilachian writers =
Seriously, make this a 2019 read. An early 2019 read for your TBR list. If you love voices like Jesmyn Ward, you will love this book.
Kristi Lamont
So well-written, but so, so very depressing, with an ending that left me wanting more. Reading this book was like living little slices of other peoples' lives at different points in time from the 1960s through the 1990s -- the lives of rural black people, particularly women experiencing all manner of different bad experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum depression. Hard lives these folks lived, for the most part, yet there was love of all different kinds to at least partly sustain ...more
Wendy Cosin
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it

Set in what I assume is an imaginary town in the rural south, The Birds of Opulence is the story of women in an extended family, including the matriarch Minnie Mae, her three children (Tookie, June, and Butter, with a focus on Tookie), and Tookie’s daughter Lucy, Lucy’s husband and their children (KeeKee and Yolanda, with a focus on Yolanda). There is a connected story about a neighbor, Francine, and her daughter Mona. The author brings the reader into the community and provides a good sense of
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You know that phenomenon called a "book hangover"? Well, suffice it to say that I have needed some grounding today because just after midnight, I finished Crystal Wilkinson's "The Birds of Opulence." Do yourself a favor and hightail it to Wild Fig Books & Coffee and purchase a minimum of one of these books. Once you read it, you will think of many people who will also love it, and you will want to share it with them. But you also are not going to want to ever take a chance on it escaping ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
More of my thoughts on this book can be found here
Read In Colour
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I'd give it a 3 1/2 if Goodreads let me. It started slow but eventually picked up. Loved the women in the book. Wish more of Kevin's & adult Yolanda's stories could have played out.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've had Wilkinson's Water Street on my to-read list for a while now, but I saw this one on the library shelf and had to take it home - look at that gorgeous cover! It fits the story, too; the writing is beautiful and vivid but mostly it does a lot with a minimum of words. The book's not long and the chapters tend to be compact, but I'm coming away from it with such a strong feeling of the atmosphere of Opulence and the two families' various personalities. Her writing is so good at evoking ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book. It did not take very long for me to read it. It kept my attention. Southern novels are my thing, so I really appreciated the flora and fauna, the dialect, and the nicknames. It is a story about women who battle mental illness. It also touches upon raising children with no fathers. It is a very beautifully written novel. It reads like a poem. The writer took a lot of time writing with details and similes and metaphors. I like the different generations of women and how ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ratings (1 to 5)
Writing: 5
Plot: 4
Characters: 4
Emotional impact: 4
Overall rating: 4.25
This was a 3.5 read for me
Thoughts coming shortly
Leslie W
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A short book, but not a quick read, if you get my meaning. A subtle portrayal tracing a Kentucky family through the generations. Wilkinson writes in a voice similar to Jesmyn Ward; personal, knowing, and with loving depiction of the characters. I hope this novel gets out there far and wide.
Too few stories are shared about the lives of Black folks in Appalachia. The mountainous Southern region looms large in the American imagination, but the Black people who have deep ties to the land do not.

Crystal Wilkinson is incredibly talented; that is undeniable. 'The Birds of Opulence' follows four generations of women in two separate families over many decades in Opulence, Kentucky. Life is beautiful and harrowing for these women. They've all experienced some sort of trauma, and Wilkinson
judy-b. judy-b.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I savored this epic poem of a novel. Crystal Wilkinson conjures beauty and heartache in quietly affecting prose that engages all the senses and the intellect. She brought me into the homes and hearts of people who live in a place reminiscent of both Grover's Corners and Brewster Place. The Birds of Opulence is less idyllic than Our Town, and it resembles The Women of Brewster Place only in that it brings us into the homes and hearts of strong black women making their way, but I thought of both ...more
Eliot Parker
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Love this book and love her!
Rita Quillen
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a writer is both a good thing and a bad thing when reading other writers' work. You can't just kick back and enjoy; you see the skeleton underneath, the thousand decisions that were made, the weight of the choices, the price of the book that isn't listed on the sticker or back cover. The Birds of Opulence had me walking all around in it, looking under the hood, in the trunk, kicking the tires, on a model of novel I hadn't seen before. I loved it. The writing is beautiful, the characters ...more
Jackie Rogers
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Birds of Opulence is a beautiful book. Takes place in Kentucky from 1962 to 1995. Is about the Goode-Brown family. This family is one to fall in love with. Is the life of a family full of love and hardship all of their lives. Is about the folly of youth and the pain of adulthood. Is an African-American story that will touch every fiber of your being. The writing is beautiful and exceptional. This novel comes out in March. Put it on your to be read list and you will rejoice when reading. ...more
Kathleen Gray
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written novel of a life far outside my experience- but so very relevant and important. I learned from this book; I now have a greater appreciation for women in these circumstances. I had ot read Wilkinson before but I'll definitely look for her in the future. THanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. You'll like this if you are interested in generational stories of women coping with mental illness, poverty, and bad men and coming out on top.
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow...I am not quite sure how to gather my thoughts yet! Will finish the review after we wrap up the buddy read discussion, but suffice it to say I loved this one something serious...
Anna Powell
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
I picked this book up after hearing the author doing a reading. I loved it. Beautifully written, the author varies her POV, creating an interwoven story about family, mental illness, and the relationship to place.
Frankie Wolf
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read my thoughts on this book and hear my interview with Crystal Wilkinson at
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. Wilkinson's lyrical writing is captivating. These characters and this place called Opulence will stick with me a long time.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Crystal Wilkinson's style of writing is both mystical and enchanting in a gentle, subtle way. She is a true poet at heart, yet a vivid storyteller as well, deftly executing both art forms without using excess of words or description. Simplicity in ordinary surroundings - in this case, the Appalachian countryside - is rendered in beautiful, original constructs involving nature, something I found to be almost therapeutic in its ability to take me to a relaxing place, if only in my imagination.

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Crystal Wilkinson was born in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1962 and raised in Indian Creek, Kentucky. Her grandparents, Silas and Christine Wilkinson, took her into their care when she was six weeks old. Often describing herself as a country girl, Wilkinson's work reflects a love and homage to her Appalachian roots. She recalls growing up on her grandparent's farm where her grandfather planted tobacco and ...more