Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel The Nature of Small Birds tells the compelling story of Mindy. A woman on a journey of healing and self-discovery, who chooses to face her past and search for her birth mother in Vietnam. The story however is uniquely told through the eyes of her three closest family members. Beginning in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, Finkbeiner captures a picture of history rarely told to today’s generation.
Four days ago my friends and I shared dinner at a local pub and as we were leaving for a school meeting, an old man stopped us. He was wearing a Vietnam hat and my friend thanked him for his service. As he lit up, I wondered what his return home must have been like in the 1970’s. A sad retreat? A divided nation? Few patrons offering discounts to war heroes? It’s a story my parents do not like to tell. “A dark time in our nation” is how my mother put it. Finkbeiner tells this story.
Whether you were on the anti-war side, the support democracy side, or the nobody has taught me anything about it side, The Nature of Small Birds will pull you in to the roller-coaster emotion families experienced in this often not spoken about decade of America.
This book is moving and pulls you into a heart-felt story. Personally, I found the 3 distinct voices bouncing back and fourth over a period of many decades a little hard to follow. But please do not let this discourage you – I have been busy and distracted. I simply recommend you read this book when you can focus. The diction is also a shift away from standard writing as it is in first-person narrative/journal style. I prefer this in non-fiction but Finkbeiner does a fantastic job with her style. This book is unique and worth the concentration.