Book Review: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

  • Title: Other Birds
  • Author: Sarah Addison Allen
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Southern Fiction, Magical Realism
  • Would I recommend: Oh, yes. I do love magical realism, and Sarah Addison Allen does it smashingly.


An enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at the Dellawisp she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a young woman with a past, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and a lonely chef, and three ghosts. The sudden death of one of Zoey’s new neighbors sets off a search that leads to the island’s famous author and to a long-estranged relative of the sisters.

Each of them has a story, and each story has an ending which hasn’t yet been written.

My review:

Since her mother died and her father remarried, Zoey hasn’t really felt like she fit at home. She leaves Tulsa for Mallow Island, South Carolina, where she’s inherited a studio apartment that her mother had owned. A mysterious invisible bird named Pigeon travels with her. The apartment building is small – just five units – and the courtyard is populated with tiny turquoise birds called dellawisps, after which the building is named.

Shortly after Zoey’s arrival, a crotchety resident named Lizbeth Lime dies. She was a bit of a hoarder, and Frasier, the apartment manager, asks Zoey to take on the task of cleaning out Lizbeth’s apartment. As she cleans, Zoey gets to know the other residents: Lizbeth’s reclusive sister Lucy; Charlotte, a young woman reluctant to trust anyone, who may not be who she says she is; big-hearted chef Mac; and of course, Frasier, although he doesn’t live onsite. Oh, and then there are the ghosts, too. Everyone has secrets, and no one is entirely what they appear to be. But Zoey, with her perpetually cheerful nature, manages to befriend the other residents and begin to learn their stories.

Allen’s writing style is just beautiful. She draws word pictures that you can almost touch, and it makes it easy for me to envision the setting, the characters, the action as I read. Her characters are flawed, but the more endearing for their flaws. I was absolutely invested in what happened to them, even the ghosts.

At its heart, this is a story about coming home. A story about love and loss, and how either or both can sometimes keep folks earthly or ethereal trapped somewhere far longer than we need to be. It’s also about the beauty of found family, and people learning to love and belong to the family they’ve found. I absolutely adored it, and I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. All of the opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism, Southern Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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