The Tender Birds
The lives of two people intersect in different ways as a priest tries to reconcile his past and face the unknown in the present. Father Matt Reilly misses his plane and is grateful as the outcome of he made the flight would have ended his life. The date was September 11,2001 and the deaths were caused by a terrorist attack. Remembering someone he cared for deeply and realizing that life through him a curve ball, Father Matt tells readers about Valerie and a secret they both shared.
In the present and years later he meets once again a young girl named Alison whose love of birds is paramount and whose devotion to a precious falcon she named Daisy is the basis for her part of the story and the way Fr.Matt becomes part of her life in a professional way. She’s a parishioner in his church who sits alone and she’s caring for this injured falcon that so many cheer for and it shows her faith in God to protect him and it allows readers to feel her compassion and love of this bird but this is not the only one in this story. Birds are at the center of a special dedication but first let’s understand Matt in-depth as he is asked to help out at a church and teach classes at a school but a heart attack stops him cold for a while and he begins to reassess and reflect on his life, his physical limitations and his loneliness. He’s cold at times and keeps his feelings locked inside almost in an insulated bag that locks his feelings away and keeping warmth inside and his aloof veneer on the outside. At times he creates emails and then
rewrites them in a neutral or emotionless fashion not wanting to get too personal with the recipient.
Alison is warm and passionate and just wants to take Daisy bout in the world and teach children about her offering to bring her to schools.
Matt seems afraid to get close to anyone yet when Natalie appears to be aloof and not react to his compliments he is taken aback. Alison is warm and just wants to be accepted and nurtures Daisy and helps other birds and animals she’s loving and caring and wants to show how the birds bring her closer to God. A special scene that is heartwarming is when the congregation dedicated the nest of the Hawks.
Fr. Matt has an unusual relationship with Alison who had an odd following in his church as she befriends the homeless, children and the lonely telling them Daisy stories. Fr.Matt at time seemed locked within himself and his body as she formed a friendship with Cameron Byrne an author, photographer and a lover of birds. He was able to communicate with her and yet Matt felt isolated and could not get closer to Alison as more than a priest. So why did he follow them?
Fr.Matt was seen by the people that are in this park and was enlisted to do an outdoor mass receiving vestments from a woman, wine from the wine man and others presented him with the bread. Blessing them, the animals, Daisy and the people present gave him a sense belonging and a sense of being helpful to others. Alison had a strong connection with animals and when she comes inside and they have a talk the feeling he gets about her is that she’s from another planet yet she explains that Daisy is part of the gift and her spiritual director but he feels that she’s on another planet .
The story shifts from Matt to Alison’s voice to even that if Daisy expressing his feelings about being in a cage and his attachment to Alison.
Flashbacks to her childhood and her fear of Hawks when her father was alive and the guilt for causing trouble in her own mind and the rift between her parents and his death, she feels remorseful. She dies not relate to the world like mist people and finds solace living in a tent with the homeless and will not take her mother’s money. Life takes Alison in different directions, but it seems to have many downside spirals as Matt seems to hide behind himself and is never joyful or fulfilled. Lives flashbacks and his guilt about his son and his secrets often keep him at a distance with people. Acceptance comes at a hard price for both but they both need to accept who they are before others will.
Alison becomes entrenched in her life in the ravine and then a strange man following her changes it all and her fears come through as he befriended her but for his own greedy purpose. Weed to smoke and offering her a haven for a shower and a bed he used her vulnerability to abuse her until she finally realizes she needs help. Her mother and Sister Maggie try to change Cher perspective, but will she take the help. At times her pride gets in the way.
Author Carole Giangrande takes us inside the hearts and minds of both Alison and Matt as one takes a journey hopefully to enlightenment and the other still in loneliness. How can Matt forgive himself when his superior reign over him and blame him for not finding Alison some help before she was attacked by Gavin and had to hide within herself living in the ravine. Will she realize that there is more to life with human companionship and find her way into the sunlight? Lives pass you by. Things change as the final scenes reflect how Alison remembers growing up and her father’s infidelity and how it affected her and her mother. Father Matt reflects on his sins but will not give up on the masses in the park and the fact that St. Bart’s is closing is heartbreaking even though he just helped there he felt that he belonged. Flashbacks about how he and Alison met, interacted and the journey dealing with Daisy and how she is a prayer bird and should be blessed. Some feared the Falcon others embraced her but where will Alison wind up and what about Elias and Natalie how will their friendship impact her in the end? A truth comes out, a revelation changes quite a bit and the journey ends as the author helps readers reflect as Alison takes the peregrine falcon out of her case and she stands tall and her gloved fist, wings spread, as if she could imagine flying.
A powerful story told in so many voices and at the end we will all come to love the true meaning of The Tender Birds.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews