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Songbirds (by Christy Lefteri)

I read more non-fiction, and when I do read fiction, I expect the words to evoke emotions in me. I want to feel emotionally engaged. This didn’t happen right away when I started reading this book. In fact, it wasn’t until the last quarter of the story that the narrative truly gripped me, turning the reading experience into an emotional and reflective one.

It’s a blend of sadness and empowerment. It isn’t merely a work of fiction; it brings to light the muted perspectives of some of the marginalized, the migrants. It gives them a voice, offering empathy and compassion, and granting them the power to share their stories and experiences. Their struggles and dreams come to life in a way that educates and provokes introspection.

There’s a symbolic parallel between the lives of the trapped songbirds and the challenges faced by migrants, providing a deep reflection on the resilience of the human spirit and emphasizing the message that change is both necessary and achievable. So, this book also conveys a message of love and hope.

The theme of motherhood is explored as well, and I liked how the author achieves this. We don’t hear directly from the mother, but rather through the comments of others.

The author’s final note to the reader at the end of the book is quite heart-breaking. It’s a reminder that the issues explored in this book extend beyond the confines of fiction. In conclusion, this book had a strong impact on me, making it well worth the read.

Title: Songbirds
Author: Christy Lefteri
Year First Published: 2021
Content Warnings: Miscarriage, animal cruelty, animal death, death, murder, child death

From Goodreads:

Yiannis is a poacher, trapping the tiny protected songbirds that stop in Cyprus as they migrate each year from Africa to Europe, and selling them on the black market. He dreams of finding a new way of life, and of marrying Nisha, who works for Petra and her daughter Angela. Nisha is raising Angela, mothering her own child back in Sri Lanka by the screen of a phone.

When Nisha disappears, Yiannis is convinced he is responsible, paralysed by heartbreak and fear. Petra is forced to care for her child again, and when little Angela insists that they find Nisha, she begins to see that Nisha hasn’t simply run away, and that no one else will bother to look for her.

With infinite tenderness and skill, Christy Lefteri has crafted a powerful story about the unseen who walk among us, cleaning our homes and caring for our children – what it is to migrate in search of freedom, only to find yourself trapped. Songbirds is a triumphant exploration of loss, the strength of the human spirit and the unbreakable bonds of courage, and of love.