Book Review and Giveaway: Odd Birds by Severo Perez | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


ODD BIRDS
by
SEVERO PEREZ
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 278 pages 

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The year is 1961. Seventy-year-old Cosimo Infante Cano, a Cuban-born artist in need of inspiration, follows his lover to Texas in what was to be a temporary sabbatical from their life in France. Unexpectedly, he finds himself stranded in San Antonio, nearly penniless, with little more than the clothes on his back and an extraordinary pocket watch. His long hair and eccentric attire make him an odd sight in what he has been told is a conservative cultural backwater.
Cosimo’s French and Cuban passports put a cloud of suspicion over him as events elsewhere in the world play out. Algeria is in open revolt against France. Freedom Riders are being assaulted in Mississippi, and the Bay of Pigs debacle is front-page news. Cosimo confronts nightmares and waking terrors rooted in the horror he experienced during the Great War of 1914–1918. His friends—students, librarians, shopkeepers, laborers, lawyers, bankers, and even a parrot—coalesce around this elderly French artist as he attempts to return to what remains of his shattered life.
His new friends feel empathy for his impoverished condition, but his unconventional actions and uncompromising ethics confuse them. He creates charming drawings he refuses to sell and paints a house simply for the pleasure of making a difference. In the process he forever alters the lives of those who thought they were helping him.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“A pitch-perfect picaresque tale” –John Phillip Santos, Texas Monthly
“Judge this book by its cover. It’s a stunning… captivating read.” –Alice Embree, Rag Radio Blog
An “elegantly conceived tale–boasting a culturally and historically astute plot–that demands to be read.” –Kirkus Reviews

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Odd Birds is not my usual fantasy/suspense/cozy mystery read. It defies description, a little bit, in the best possible way.

Cosimo Infante Cano finds himself stranded in San Antonio, Texas, in a time where racial tensions ran high. He and Sara, his younger lover, planned to travel back to the United States from France, with her traveling ahead to prepare for his arrival. But when he reaches the house where he expected her to be, he learns she has passed away. His possessions were stolen on the trip, and now he finds himself in a place where he is looked upon with suspicion because of the color of his skin. He is basically destitute, and he just wants to find a way back home to France.

The language of the book is almost musical. It’s an interesting parallel that Cosimo is an artist and the book reads like a painting. Layers build up, details may not make complete sense in the moment, but then it all comes together to a magnificent whole.

Cosimo was an odd bird, as the title suggests. He did what seemed to be the next right thing, not the next expedient thing. As an artist, he could have sold his work and made himself some money while he tried to recover what was his. Instead, he gave his art to people who had helped him as gifts. In a world where the mindset is so often “look out for number one,” Cosimo stands out.

The story is populated with other odd birds, as well, most notably the three library pages, Richard, Maddie, and Oscar. Ruthann, the bigoted, narrow-minded librarian charged with bringing the new hires into the library, does her best to discredit them and make them look bad. Yet, like Cosimo, they keep doing their best to do the next right thing, to find a way to be true to themselves and to be decent human beings.

Profound themes such as the pain of loss, overt racism, and dealing with change are handled delicately and with grace. Like a bird’s nest, Perez weaves what appear to be disparate details and bits of information into a strong, beautiful whole. The ending of the book left me feeling like I was waving farewell to friends after a long, interesting journey.

Odd Birds may not be my usual reading fare, but it is definitely a book well worth your time. Five stars from me.

SEVERO PEREZ, an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, and writer, grew up in working-class Westside San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. For over forty-five years he produced programing for PBS and for network and cable television. His feature film adaptation of Tomas Rivera’s novel . . . and the earth did not swallow him (1994) won eleven international awards, including five for Best Picture. His first novel, Willa Brown & the Challengers (2012), is historical fiction based on the real-life African American aviation pioneer Willa Beatrice Brown. Odd Birds is his second novel. Visit his website to learn more.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
TWO WINNERS: Autographed copies of Odd Birds
(US only. Ends 4/8/2022.)

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1 Response to Book Review and Giveaway: Odd Birds by Severo Perez | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

  1. Fabulous review — I love your birds’ nest analogy. Just perfect. I cannot wait to read this book. Thanks for sharing!

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