Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: When Mockingbirds Sing

When Mockingbirds SingWhen Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having never read a book by Billy Coffey, and considering the contents of most of the other books to cross my desk at work, I was more than a little skeptical when I opened the cover to his latest offering, "When Mockingbirds Sing."

Even given the back cover synopsis, I confess I have no idea what I thought I was going to encounter when I started reading. Let's get some things out of the way first. The book comes from Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, part of Harper Collins and Zondervan. For some reason which I cannot grasp, such groups occasionally like to put reading group guides at the backs of their books. This ought to be ignored at all costs, as pretending it doesn't exist will allow for maximum enjoyment.

And this is a book deserving of enjoyment. Not roller coaster enjoyment, or even walk-in-the-park enjoyment, but a savoring. Each page should be taken in, soaked up, and processed.

The Norcross family has moved to the town of Mattingly from their city home, in order to escape past hurts and heal their small family. As the family strives for acceptance, their shy daughter Leah, makes two new friends -- one of whom nobody else can see. This invisible friend, The Rainbow Man, has bestowed on her an amazing gift -- one that will rally the town around her and, eventually, turn it against her. Helping her through the ups and downs is Allie, who is faithful, loyal, and most importantly, believes in Leah's Rainbow Man.

Coffey writes engaging characters you'll like enough to be disappointed in when they fail. And they will fail. Coffey's characters are real people -- people you know -- and they each harbor a darkness the reader will find at once shocking and familiar. The town of Mattingly, a character in its own right, is as inviting on one hand as it is cold and distant on the other. You feel for the Norcross family as they attempt to fit in, even as they begin to realize it will never happen in the way they hope.

When Mockingbirds Sing is part coming-of-age, part Southern Gothic, exploring faith and doubt, community and alienation, friendship and deep hurt.

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