Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Tender Birds by Carole Giangrande + #Giveaway

The Tender Birds by Carole Giangrande
Published in Canada by Inanna Poetry And Fiction on the 10th October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

Matthew Reilly is a busy academic, a lonely priest haunted by secrets. Young Alison is the shy and devoted keeper of Daisy, a falcon which suffered an accident and can no longer fly. The three of them meet in a Boston parish, but Matt has forgotten a momentary but disturbing meetup with Alison, homeless eight years earlier in Toronto. Close to exhaustion, he's forced to reflect on what's become of his life, including the loss of a son that no one knew he'd fathered. Alison and Matt had a fateful encounter during her homeless period, but Matt doesn't connect that frail teenager with the healthy young woman she'd become. It's left to Alison to uncover Matt's past and for Matt to come to terms with it.

I don't tend to pick up much in the way of religious fiction so at first I wasn't sure how I would get on with The Tender Birds, a novel set within Catholic communities in Toronto and Boston. As it turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and especially appreciated the sense of calm and tranquillity it created for me. I soon realised that, while several of the central characters practice their faith devoutly, the novel itself wasn't going to preach at me so I could focus on its themes and storylines instead.

Of the two main characters, Matthew and Alison, I actually found Alison's story to be the more compelling. Although my teenage years weren't as traumatic as hers, I could still strongly identify with some of her experiences and felt Giangrande's wrote of Alison's descent into homelessness in a knowledgeable and authentic way. I was reminded of Dennis Cardiff's powerful Toronto memoir, Gotta Find A Home, particularly during the Ravine scenes and when a group of homeless people gather in a local park. I was impressed how Giangrande put the issue of homelessness into such a central place in The Tender Birds, but without making me as a reader feel hectored on the subject. The most memorable moment for me was an almost throwaway remark about how Father Matt's church, St Bart's, rapidly lost parishioners when homeless people came into the church for Mass. Apparently their Christian charity didn't extend to worshipping in the same building and, although they live near enough, the lack of adequate shelter excluded homeless people from also being considered 'parishioners'. I've been pondering this paradox for quite some time!

I wasn't sure how I felt about Matthew. In several ways I found him quite an unsympathetic character. He is quick to judge others and often holds them to higher standards than he himself achieves. He also has problematic (for me) attitudes towards women and on homosexuality which he seems to consciously hide, but which escape from time to time. His complexity is wonderfully portrayed!

I wasn't so keen on the number of coincidental meetings and relationships which drove the storyline forward. There were just too many convenient coincidences for my tastes, but I think this was my only real negative for The Tender Birds. That aside, I am glad to have discovered Carole Giangrande's writing and am also intrigued by the way reading this novel made me feel. I don't know if it was the pacing or something in the writing style, but on finishing The Tender Birds I realised I felt unexpectedly relaxed and almost serene. Perhaps this whole novel is a prayer?

Meet the author:
Carole Giangrande is the award-winning author of ten books, including the novella A Gardener on the Moon (winner of the 2010 Ken Klonsky Award) and the novel All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (2018 Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Literary Fiction). The Tender Birds is her fourth novel. She’s worked as a broadcast journalist for CBC Radio (Canada's public broadcaster), and her fiction, poetry, articles and reviews have appeared in literary journals and in Canada’s major newspapers. In her spare time, she loves exploring nature with her partner Brian, photographing birds and studying French.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win an autographed print or one of three ebook copies of The Tender Birds by Carole Giangrande (4 winners)
USA and Canada only.
(ends November 29, 2019)

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Books by Carole Giangrande / Contemporary fiction / Books from Canada


  1. thank you so much for sharing this deep and insightful novel.

    1. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to discover this beautiful novel :-)

  2. I don't read religious fiction either but this sounds like it has a really good story to it.

    1. It does, and the religious aspect worked really well - even for atheist me! I'd say the story is a spiritual one

  3. This isn't my normal genre at all but I'll admit it doesn't sound half bad at all!

    1. Same here! I probably wouldn't have chosen The Tender Birds if it hadn't been on tour, but I loved the story and have added another of Giangrande's books to my TBR already

  4. It seems like there are a few too many coincidences for me to feel like this is one for me... But I am always looking for and appreciating novels which feature religion but don't preach it at you when reading!

    1. It's one of those stories where the coincidences don't really flag up until thinking over the book afterwards, but then this is a novel which I felt encouraged pondering so ...? I think it's one you might appreciate though