Ashamed of her marriage, uninspired at work, Paula Makaikis’ only interest is feeding the birds on the ledge outside her office window. That is, until fate forces her to open the door to her own cage.
Once the gifted, formidable head of the Center for Immigrant Studies at NYU, lately she’s been content to let ambitious, younger colleagues take the reins. Ten years ago she’d married Roger only to have his hoarding push her out of his bed and out of his life. An urgent phone call from her childhood friend Celeste irrevocably redirects Paula’s life. Celeste needs Paula to translate for an elderly homeless man who speaks only Greek, has lost his beloved dog to Animal Control and has only hours to live. Paula races to the hospital to find she recognizes this man—as a child, she’d called him Theo, but her mother mysteriously refuses to tell Theo’s real name or his true connection to Paula. Promising Theo that she will take care of his dog, Paula becomes the owner of a wolf hybrid named Fotis ("light" in Greek). Spontaneously, Paula and Fotis hit the road, traveling north, ending up at a wildlife rehabilitation center on the Minnesota shores of Lake Superior. She is intuitively adept at handling fierce birds since she, too, knows what it means to have one’s freedom clipped. As she helps heal wild eagles, Paula, of course, heals herself. She has the guidance of some new friends, including Rick, an attorney who left his own smothering job and unhappy marriage to found the refuge. Like her debut (An Echo Through the Snow, 2012), Thalasinos’ sophomore novel beautifully evokes the emotional resonances of broken hearts and disappointed dreams. Yet the connection between damaged birds and damaged humans, although metaphorically neat, is too easy.
Loose ends and overdrawn symbols mar this richly written tale.