Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sparrow Migrations

A disclaimer: I'm acquainted with the author of this week's book, and I like her, but I will do my best to be objective in my review.

My book club chose Sparrow Migrations, by Cari Noga, to discuss at our April meeting and invited the author, who lives in our town, to join us. So Friday night we were in the unusual position of being at wine, er, book group and talking about the book.

The novel intertwines the stories of three ordinary, fictional families whose lives were altered by the real crash landing on the Hudson River in 2009 by the flight piloted by Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger. Their stories are told in parallel for most of the book as the characters do not meet at the time of the crash and go their separate ways, and for one of the characters, the reader can't imagine how her life could intersect with the others again. But as Seinfeld made New York City seem almost as small as Mayberry, the two degrees of separation for these characters make a reunion inevitable.

The most compelling character to me was Robby, a 12-year-old autistic boy who is aboard a sight-seeing ferry when the plane landed on the river. On hearing that birds likely caused the accident, Robby becomes obsessed with learning more. In what could be a common fantasy for parents of an atypical child, Robby meets a kind and wise mentor who sees his autism not as a crushing disability, but as a gifted ability that, properly nurtured, could make him specially suited for work as a scientist.

I was so engaged with Robby's storyline that I read impatiently through the others, although sometimes lesbian mom Brett's story had enough drama to draw me in. I related the least to professional ├╝ber-couple Christopher and Deborah.

Cari's journalism background is evident in the clear, concise prose. This is a pleasant and diverting first novel and a relatively easy read, yet it isn't simplistic or amateurish. The characters are richly-drawn and the plots are interesting. It certainly provided lots of fodder for discussion at our book group meeting!

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