A little girl’s world disintegrates after her mother’s illness and severe depression result in family tragedy.
Nicknamed “Chirp” because she loves bird-watching in her native Cape Cod, 11-year-old Naomi’s devoted to her free-spirited mother, who’s always been a dancer. Unfortunately, her mother’s inability to cope with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis leads to her hospitalization for depression. Ironically, Chirp’s hyperanalytical psychiatrist father seems clueless about what’s happening emotionally to his family, while her older sister blames him for sending her mother away. Meanwhile, Chirp quietly withdraws, finding comfort in her birds and the unlikely companionship of her neighbor and classmate, Joey, whose own family has “significant issues.” When her mother returns and commits suicide, Chirp’s shocked, bereft and in deep denial, until Joey helps her find her way. Chirp’s first-person account of how she and her family react to the events leading to her mother’s funeral presents a nuanced chronicle of loss. Ehrlich’s ability to get inside Chirp’s head, to create beautifully rounded characters and to flesh out details of life for this Jewish family in 1972 Cape Cod adds to the overall realism. Frequent textual references to wild birds and relevant children’s books provide interesting depth.
A poignant, insightful story of family crisis and the healing power of friendship. (Historical fiction. 8-12)