Billy Coffey is a maestro who has conducted a symphony in when mockingbirds sing. With the melody of the central theme, each character's story weaves in and out, some in harmony and others in a minor discord. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a 5-star read that has gone not only on my Top 10 for 2013 list but my Top 10 of All Time as well.
"When Mockingbirds Sing" by Billy Coffey is a fantasy novel about a stuttering, shy girl, Leah and her strange parents who move to a small town that seems keep its population the same always with few new comers. Leah's parents have a huge birthday party for her and the Rainbow man comes to befriend Leah and give her knowledge.
This whole book is kinda weird. It has great reviews and I am not sure why. The whole thing seems like the author's a weak attempt to be deep. There is little introduction so the reader spends the first part of the novel wondering what's going on. With the exception of Allie, none of the characters are particuarly likable. I didn't like this one, however, many people do. Give it a shot. I received this book for free from www.booksneeze.com.
Leah and her parents have moved from the city to the small town of Mattingly to reunite as a family. Tom and Ellen even invite the whole town to Leah's birthday party, in an attempt to connect to the people of this outsider-averse community. Things start out well, with Leah befriending a town girl named Allie, who looks past Leah's stutter and sticks with her, even as Leah's life begins to get stranger and stranger. First, there's the Rainbow Man, who sings only to Leah and tells her things that nobody else should know. Then there are the paintings - the first of which brings great blessings upon the town's forgotten. But is this Rainbow Man real? Is he good? And are these paintings and prophecies of Leah's meant to help the town, or break it apart?
When Mockingbird Sings reminded me a lot of a book I read years ago, Keeping Faith, by Jodi Picoult. A small girl who seemingly is tuned in to a powerful force, with the public divided over whether it's good, evil, or even real. I won't do a comparison of the books here, but Picoult's book was in my head for most of the reading of this one.
I wasn't sure how to feel about this book; while I admired Leah's commitment to her journey, the story itself was so dark. Leah's life was not easy; the Rainbow Man did not make things sunshine and roses. Leah was outcast, doubted, and mocked. At one point, almost the entire town teams up on her. Yet, she stands her ground; she believes in the Rainbow Man, and she believes she needs to do what he says and deliver his message to the people of Mattingly, no matter the cost to herself or her family, or her very best friend. Additionally, there are multiple mentions of other "magic" that has happened in this town, hints that Leah is not the first person to experience strange things here, yet the stories of the past are never explained, even though one character promises to tell Leah's Father Tom the whole thing. While Mr. Coffey has other books available that reference "a small Virginia town," there is no indication of these books being a cohesive series, and no reference to the order they're meant to be read in, if they're even connected. This left me feeling like I'd missed a big part of the story, and it made it much harder for me to connect to the townsfolk.
Even with my frustration about the plot holes, I was drawn into Leah's world, and anxious to see how things turned out. I wanted to know whether the Rainbow Man was on the side of good or evil, and I wanted to know what the prophecies meant for the town.
I give this book 3 stars.
I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson, as part of their Booksneeze program, in exchange for my honest review.
Billy Coffey has written a masterful tale, a novel that pulled me in from the first scene and caught me up into the deep emotion and hurt and pain and wonder of the world Billy has created. There were moments that I laughed and moments that I hurt along with the characters. And there were moments near the end that I nearly forgot to breathe as I lived through the story. The writing is superb, with words that flow ever so smoothly, vivid descriptions, and characters I could not help but adore. The supernatural element in the story adds an utterly unique flavour that I thoroughly enjoyed. "When Mockingbirds Sing" is one of those novels that causes the world around you to fall silent as you are drawn into the story, one that seems achingly real and magical at the same time. It is a book that I will need to ponder for some time as I sort through the messages contained within its pages, messages about grace and about faith and the power of belief. I am left with fresh wonder at how God can choose to work and breathe upon our lives, how His plan can upend our understanding of how things work and reveal that His ways are even better than what we could ask for or imagine.
This is the first novel that I've read by Billy Coffey, and I have been so moved by the grace and beauty of his words that I can promise I will be reading the next book he has to offer as well. I highly recommend this read and award it 5 out of 5 stars.
A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.
It is hard to describe this novel. It is part parable, part fantasy, yet all drama.
Tom, a psychologist in the city, moves his family to a small town in the country. His daughter, Leah, is very shy and stutters and is alienated from others her age. She has an imaginary acquaintance, the Rainbow Man. He sings and reveals to her pictures she is to paint and people she is to see. When her first painting contains winning lottery numbers, the town adores her. But then succeeding paintings are not so uplifting and the town turns on her and her parents.
This novel has much in it to think about and discuss. There are the characters, like Reggie, the pastor who has devoted his life to his faith and ministry. He is angry that one would even think God might speak through an agnostic little girl. There is Barney who testifies God loves him when he wins the lottery but when his wife dies a few days later, testifies that God is cruel. There is Tom, Leah's father. He is a troubled man, unable to cure his own ills even as he helps others.
There are many questions originating within the storyline. When we say "God loves us," what do we really mean? Does he love us when He has us win the lottery as our business is dying and medical bills are mounting? Does He love us when He allows your wife to die? Does God love us when we put in our coins of good works and out comes our reward? Does He love us when we put in the correct change but the machine doesn't deliver?
There is nothing like adversity to reveal the true character of people. And this hick town of Mattingly has it's share. A disgruntled Barney thinks about the "rottenness that lurked just beneath the goodness of his town." (266) And during a town confrontation with Leah, "In that moment the townspeople's brittle facade of community and kinship was peeled back to expose the beasts that lurked beneath it." (297)
There would be much to discuss about this novel. What does it mean to believe? Would God speak through an agnostic child? Are events planned by God and are they inevitable? What do we do when God acts in a way we were certain He would never do? What do we do with the mysteries of God that we do not understand? As Christians, should we deny or accept a move of God when it is foreign to our expectations? When we call something magic, what does that mean?
Coffey is a fine writer. This is a novel with a good story on the surface and many underlying truths and questions below. Not all of the Christians we experience are wonderful people. They are real, with faults and problems. And as is often the case with God, not everything is as it seems. As for Tom and so many others, I guess that is why they call it faith.
There are discussion question so this would make a very interesting book for a reading group.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.