Birds in Flight
Birds In Flight is the story of two estranged sisters, reuniting after twenty four years in an effort to solve the mystery of what happened to their mother and a young child accompanying her one dark, stormy night a lifetime ago.
Their mother had fled their father and America for a life road tripping around Australia in an old camper van for reasons unknown to her two unhappy daughters. They traveled from place to place, sometimes pausing long enough to get to know a few of the locals before being abruptly jerked up and forced to move on again by their skittish mother. While dutiful Lily became used to her mother’s flighty ways, rebellious daughter Iris resented the life she’d been forced to leave behind in America and took every opportunity to make her resentment and displeasure known. And then came the fateful night they drove through the Australian everglades on the way to the next small town – her mother stopping on the side of the dark road, picking up the small child traveling with them and disappearing into the black, rainy night never to be seen again. Later, Lily will recall being alone in the van, petrified and jumping at shadows when police abruptly stormed the van shouting questions. A man had reported seeing a woman in the area running down the road chasing a little girl and called it in to authorities. What Lily can’t forget or justify is the sight of her older sister Iris running back to the van, soaked to the core with her yellow rain jacket held over her head. Iris refusing to answer questions about where she’d been or what she’d done, warning Lily to keep her mouth shut. Iris creating a rift between siblings that grew wider day by day until their relationship is hopelessly fractured by lies, secrets and innuendos. A fracture that will keep them apart, living on two different continents for twenty-four years.
Now, a lifetime later, Lily receives a phone call from police in Australia – during a big flood of the Everglades, something of her mother’s surfaces. Lily returns to Australia to meet the detective and hopefully, finally, get the truth about what happened that night from her sister Iris. Could this be the piece of evidence they’ve been waiting for? The two sisters form a tentative, fragile truce and, with their own children in tow, decide to reenact their mother’s road trip from twenty four years ago – hoping to uncover clues, to find answers and maybe, just maybe, find their way back to each other. But is either woman ready to accept the truths that emerge when skeletons are rattled? Will it bring them back together . . . or finish ripping them apart?
Birds In Flight is the second book I’ve read by the multi-talented author Anni Taylor. Her descriptive narrative brings Australia with its wide variety of landscapes and environments to life in living, breathing color – the sights and smells, the unrelenting heat and cold, the merciless dry and wet. I felt like I was on the road trip with Lily and Iris, both as young girls with their mother and later as adults with children of their own. Through past and present chapters, the author renders a mesmerizing tale of two doomed road trips twenty-four years apart. The tempo of each road trip sets a steadily increasing, ominous pace, building tension as they move from place to place, person to person, asking questions, seeking answers even as the strain and half-truths between them fester. As they travel, they begin learning more about their mother’s life and motivation as a child and later as an adult that shocks and saddens them, driving their desire to find justice for her. Characters are well-fleshed out and believable with a few red herrings woven in throughout. Taylor does an excellent job of manipulating both characters and readers through an emotional, twisted plot line to an ending I didn’t see coming.
Anni Taylor is an author that’s earned a spot on my short list of favorite authors. Her books are highly readable and entertaining while also managing to draw attention to social issues such as misogyny, estranged siblings/families, abuse and social class. Birds In Flight is a dark, highly atmospheric story about love, loss, forgiveness and second chances. It’s about how we must face and embrace our past to live our future to the fullest. It’s about learning to forgive even if you never forget. Highly recommended to fans of mysteries, suspense and thrillers with a lot of depth and heart.
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