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The Wild Birds

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Cast adrift in 1870s San Francisco after the death of her mother, a girl named Olive disguises herself as a boy and works as a lighthouse keeper’s assistant on the Farallon Islands to escape the dangers of a world unkind to young women. In 1941, nomad Victor scours the Sierras searching for refuge from a home to which he never belonged. And in the present day, precocious f ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book
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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  159 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Suzanne Leopold
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is a collection of stories that are all connected by a silver box that holds egg shells from birds. The box is held by many people during its’ century-long journey. One holder is Olive who was given the box in 1870 while her mother was ill. After her death, she travels to San Francisco to live with her aunt. When she arrives her aunt can't be found and she needs to raise funds to live. She disguises herself as a boy for safety and to avoid undesirable choices for young women. She soon ...more
Jennifer Haupt
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The premise for this story set my imagination reeling even before reading it: mystery and intrigue, a mother and daughter tied together through their relationship with the natural world, a secret that tears them apart. What’s not to love?

This debut novel that spans the landscapes of the northwest in the 1870s and generations of a family struggling to find where they belong is both a page-turner and an evocative meditation on relationships. At it’s core, it’s about how to find one’s home in the
Amy Doan
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was lucky enough to receive an advance e-galley of The Wild Birds.

From the first paragraph of this confident, spellbinding novel—which opens from the point of view of a soaring hawk—I felt I was in good hands. The Wild Birds did not disappoint.

Strelow's large cast of characters is separated by decades: a mother and daughter in present-day Oregon, a girl disguising herself as a boy, As You Like It-style, in a 19th-century Farallon Islands lighthouse, a mysterious man in the WWII-era Sierra Neva
Y.Z. Chin
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deep, delicious dip into the untamed world and the lives of those who love it. The Wild Birds refer to the avian creatures that have been the symbols of freedom to humans for so long, but it can also be read as a tribute to myriad characters who find epiphany in their natural landscapes. This book is a love song, tender and fierce all at once.
Whispering Stories
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed by Julie on

‘The Wild Birds’ is the debut novel by American author, Emily Strelow. The book comprises three diverse stories, delivered in interspersed chapters, spanning over a century and loosely bound together by the acquisition of a silver box of eggshells. Each story is written in the third person from the perspectives of several of the main characters.

The author has taken great care to set her scenes. She has a real affinity with flora, fauna and the e
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction plus nature (and a lighthouse!) -- yes please!
***This review is a work in progress.

Thank you, first, to Suzanne Leopold, who had two copies of this book to offer. I was lucky enough to be one of the readers selected.

What a wonderful book. I loved every word. The symbolism of the wild birds is haunting.

There are five characters to discuss.. all of them complex and worth understanding. This book is about connectivity, after all. When completed, this review will show that connectivity, without spoilers. That is my challenge right now... doing
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Emily Strelow’s novel The Wild Birds is an mesmerizing debut. She deftly weaves a diverse cast of characters and three time frames into a cohesive whole, a mosaic glittering in the sunlight. Olive, an orphan who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a lighthouse keeper’s assistant on the Farallon Islands in the 1870s. Victor, the runaway son of a wealthy parents, searches for a place in which he can find himself and to call home in the 1940s. Finally, in the present day, Alice and Lily, a mothe ...more
Elena Mikalsen
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Three timelines expertly told in the setting of the Pacific Northwest with gorgeous descriptions of nature and birds. I was drawn in from the first paragraph and never set the book down until I finished, with great regret. I only wish I could write nature with such talent and passion. Reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver. As I finished the book, I immediately began to plan my trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever been to Oregon, you know there’s a certain type of vibe or free-ness. It thrives on its beautiful nature and wildlife. This book reads like a visit to Oregon and follows a crystal container holding an assortment of hollowed eggs as it passes through the hands of people starting in the late 1800s to the 1990s. I learned a bit about the history of Oregon and enjoyed the ride.
Julie Christine
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
My review of The Wild Birds can be found in The Washington Independent Review of Books:


Robert Blumenthal
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i thought that this novel was going to be a group of loosely connected short stories. It isn't. It is essentially about a girl in California in the late 1800s and the connection between her and a mother and teenage daughter living in the Willamette Valley in Oregon in the 1990s, and the man from the mid-20th century who connects them. The connection here is represented in a box that contains birds' eggs.

Alice and her daughter Lily lead somewhat troubled lives in Oregon, much revolving around Al
Kate Olson
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, feminist, contemplative and an ode to the natural world, THE WILD BIRDS instantly brought me back to reading REFUGE by Terry Tempest Williams in college - a book that flashes through my mind on a surprisingly regular basis. THE WILD BIRDS is destined to occupy that same mind space going forward. I adored the cast of characters that Strelow chose to tell this story, as well as the lush settings. I mean, there were forests, deserts, an ocean and a LIGHTHOUSE for goodness sake ~ and the b ...more
Jennifer Klepper
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm convinced Emily Strelow converses with nature, talks with the earth, and has an ability to see and hear things the rest of us cannot. In THE WILD BIRDS, the complexity of our natural environment merges and becomes one with the characters, whose own lives are part of the symbiotic world in which they live, and fight, and change, and love. Strelow weaves a story rich with natural imagery, where the earth itself--with its mysteries and tragedies and beauty--rises to assert its importance in the ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A gem of a debut, THE WILD BIRDS is the story of four women--the orphaned Olive, brave enough to find her place in a world of men, the loving but broken Alice, Alice's childhood friend and naturalist, Sal, and finally Lily, Alice's daughter. Though separated by a hundred years, the women are connected by a keepsake and an intense, desperate love of the natural world. I especially loved back-to-back chapters in the middle of the book--the first set during a lunar eclipse in 1994 when teenaged Ali ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece historical-fiction that merges with nature and who else could write it better than Emily! I really enjoyed reading this fabulous book by my new favourite Author! It's very filled with nature description which makes the book so unique, Emily has created a very rare genre of books that makes you devour in a very great way the novel, her writings are very cute and interesting, I loved the book since I first read the synopsis but reading the lines within the novel was a great experienc ...more
Eldonna Edwards
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: birders, natural history buffs,
Terry Tempest Williams meets Annie Dillard in this lyrical story with overlapping connections to flora, fauna and family. Strelow weaves a thorough knowledge of natural history and her love affair with birds into every page. An ambitious literary debut from an evocative new voice.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
FIVE BRILLIANT STARS! This book appealed to me on so many levels. Firstly, the characters are vividly drawn, and oh so human. Their stories are intertwined across more than a century, tied together by a treasure trove, a silver velvet lined box containing a collection of bird eggs, such a symbol of potential and nature’s miracles, as most birds do not survive their first year. The female protagonists are varied, and I felt a connection with each one.
Then we have the other stars of the book, th
Randee Green
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
THE WILD BIRDS, Emily Strelow's debut fiction/historical novel, was published March 13, 2018 by Rare Bird Books. Over a roughly 120-year span, the novel weaves together multiple overlapping stories about a diverse cast of characters who are all connected by an ornate silver box containing the egg shells of various birds. This is a novel about finding oneself and a place to call home.

Olive was originally given the silver box by her mother before her mother died in the 1870s. Realizing that the li
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sweet comes to mind first. Fate, next. Hopefulness, thereafter.
Sara Ackerman
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an insightful and brilliant masterpiece. There is so much to love about this book! I was drawn in right away with Emily Strelow's beautiful writing and intrigued by each storyline. One of my favorite parts was how she used the egg box as a magical connecting thread to tie the all the stories together. She does such a fine job at painting a vivid picture of the natural world that the reader will feel like they are right there in the desert or walking along the cliffs in the Farallon Islands. ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written literary novel about how each person's life is connected to others, how the natural world interacts with people's lives, and so much more. I settled down and allowed myself to be enchanted by the words and images of the book, and was rocked into the author's wonderful, fierce world. You are going to love this book.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
The literary aspect is wonderful. And I enjoyed the four perspectives. But it plodded along and didn't do much for me. 3/5 stars.
Tracie Gutknecht
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2018
This is another novel, I'm not quite sure how to review.
It almost reads like a series of short stories woven together by their connection to a chest of bird eggs. Primarily, there are two stories occurring--Olive's and Alice and Lily's. But it is also Sal's and Victor's.

It is 1874 and Olive becomes orphaned when her mother dies. One of Olive's only treasures from her mother is the chest of bird eggs. She is a teenager with not many prospects other than prostitution. To save herself from that fa
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The pacing of this book is gorgeous. The braided stories are unexpectedly subversive and punk rock despite floating above the world on a warm breeze. It is dusk in the American outdoors, tiny details that command your attention, the kind of book you could settle into like a camp chair.
Andrew Furman
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a well-wrought novel that satisfies on a number of levels, emotional and intellectual. I especially appreciate Strelow's historical ambition and the thoughtful way she engages with the intersections between the human and animal realms. She evokes her characters--male and female, contemporary and historical--with great insight and empathy.
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous book. It's the perfect book for readers who love literary novels and birds, but others will love it too! Strelow's images are vivid, her language lush and haunting, her characters intriguing and well drawn. History buff that I am, I especially enjoyed the sections with young Olive dressed in boy's clothes! Highly recommended.
Tessa Ratner
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story is delightful. I was enraptured by the birds, nature and tales of engaging female characters. What a beautiful story of overcoming. I highly recommend.
Kimberly Spencer
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully written. The story is simple, but the depth of thought that Strelow puts into the pages of this book is provoking, and makes it a books that you hate to see end. Strelow's connection to the natural world is most evident.... and in our modern world these earth connections are rarer, indeed.
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