Book Review: This Bird Flew Away by Lynda M. Martin

10386945Title: This Bird Flew Away
Author: Lynda M. Martin
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Drama
Review copy provided by the author.
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Author’s Website

What is real love? The whole world wants to know. They should ask Bria Jean, because she has it all figured out. Opinionated, stubborn and full of woe, Bria would tell you real love is having one person you can always count on through thick and thin. For her, that’s Jack. And it doesn’t matter to her that she’s nine and he’s twenty-three-not one bit.

When, at the age of twelve, Bria disappears, he and his Aunt Mary search for her, and when she surfaces, injured, abused and traumatized, Jack fights to become her guardian with no idea of the trials ahead of him. By then, Bria is thirteen going on thirty, full of her own ideas on how her life should run and with some very fixed notions about who is in charge.

This Bird Flew Away is a strong, powerful book with an even more powerful message. Bria’s struggle for love and life is very confronting. Although you might think differently at first, this book is not about child abuse. It’s about overcoming abuse, about struggling to find your way in the world after, about being a survivor.

We meet Bria first at the funeral of her stepfather, an abusive man who occasionally hit her mother. Shortly after, we are introduced to Jack, a friend of the family who is at the time still studying to be a lawyer, and who proves to be Bria’s friend from the very beginning, as he questions her about her stepfather’s behavior. When shortly after, Bria’s mother vanishes off the face of the earth, the young girl and her infant sister Tara, are forced to go live with their aunt, who Bria calls “Jess the Mess”. Unfortunately, this woman proves to be the most horrible parent or foster parent in history, as she occasionally hits Bria as well as her own children, or locks them up in the basement. Overcome with terror, especially for the fate of her little sister when growing up in such home, Bria tries to contact Jack and ask him for help. When several of her attempts fail, and she stabs her aunt with a knife in a desperate attempt to save herself from yet another severe beating, Bria runs away. But unfortunately for little Bria, the worst is yet to come…

We meet Bria again when she is a recovering survivor in some sort of safehouse, and has trouble accepting the fact she could not save the girl who was kidnapped along with her, or the fact that she was raped, humiliated and hurt beyond repair. It’s Bria’s aunt Mary who eventually takes her into her house, and takes care of Bria and her little sister from that point onward. But Bria’s fight isn’t over – it’s only just begun. She must find the strength to live again, to be happy again, to love again. The road is long, difficult and sometimes even nearly impossible. And somewhere along the way, there’s Jack, the fact that she loves him and always has loved him, and the small possibility that those feelings are mutual.

Bria’s voice is very authentic, real and honest. The story she tells us is both heartwrecking and encouraging, because it makes us believe there is still light at the end of the tunnel, that there is still hope no matter how hopeless a situation seems. The story is told from two different perspectives: Bria’s and Mary’s, and although I enjoyed this, I would have liked to see another perspective as well: Jack’s. I would have liked to know his take on things, his feelings for Bria and how they developed.

The relationship between Jack and Bria from the time she is a sixteen year old girl with an interest in her older protector to when it actually turns into something more when she’s a grown woman of twenty-four, starts from being awkward and inappropriate but also understandable and turns gradually into something practically inevitable, and for some strange reason it feels right when they finally give into their feelings for each other. It seems natural for Bria, as a young, insecure and traumatised teenager, to turn her affections to the only person who’s always been there for her, no matter how much older he is. On the other hand, it’s clear from the start that Jack has very deep and affectionate feelings for the young girl he’s meant to protect, and if they start to change when she hits the final stages of puberty, it is understandable as well. He is the only one she can ever trust her heart to, and she is the only one he would give his heart to. Their relationship is bittersweet, and the way Lynda M. Martin manages to turn it from something inappropriate and wrong at the start, to something that feels so destined and right at the end, shows a great deal of writing and story-crafting skills.

I loved how Bria, strong and willful as she is, makes it her job to aid people who have been through the same thing as she went through, other survivors. She is a wonderful example of strength, courage and hope, and she is eager to pass along those qualities to others, to let them rely on her own strength and courage to find their own hope. She is one of the most inspiring characters I’ve ever come across. I loved Jack as well: he is righteous, determined and protective, a man who will never stand down for something he believes in, a man who will never give up no matter how hard things get. He is an inspiring person as well, and I’m glad to have got to know two people this wonderful and amazing in one single book.

Lynda Martin’s writing style in This Bird Flew Away is very fluent, and she manages to pull her readers in from page one. When I learnt that she took her inspiration from several cases of child abuse she’s come across over the years, I was even more amazed with the way she manages to put reality to fiction in the pages of this book. Child abuse is horrible and gruesome, but it happens every day, and we close our eyes for it all too often. Children in need of help are left to rely only on themselves, and not a week passes by that it isn’t on the news that a child died in horrible circumstances. Deaths that could have been prevented, if we took more appropriate care of all children – not just our own, or our relatives – or if the system worked better. Every day, children a lot like Bria, are kidnapped, tortured and raped for the pleasure of sick-minded individuals. But the worst thing is that we often close our eyes to the pain of children, to their despair, that we read the newspaper, shrug it off and continue having our family dinner without even feeling sad, or at least not for longer than a minute. That we see children on the street getting hit by their parents, but that we turn our backs and pretend it never happened. I would like to thank Lynda Martin for putting child abuse in the spotlight again, for trying to make her readers see how terrible it is, the events themselves and the aftermath, and how it scars a child for life.

But This Bird Flew Away isn’t really about how gruesome these things are, or about how utterly sickening and terrifying child abuse is. As I already mentioned, it’s mostly about hope. About overcoming abuse, and about growing up to be the best person you can possibly be. It’s truly an inspirational book, and I advise everyone to read it. You will not be dissapointed.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Majanka, for the kind review. So glad you enjoyed the book. Tell me, though you were of course saddened by some of the scenes, for you would not be human if you were not, did you also find yourself laughing aloud at some of the others — Bria’s stubborn need to do as she pleases, her narcissistic view of the people around her, her ability to lie so well? This question is important to me, for the whole point of the story is no one life is full of only sadness, or joy, or suffering, or success, but a mixture of them all — no matter what.

    Thanks again, Lynda

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