THE BIRDS STILL SING by Grace Tallman

THE BIRDS STILL SING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut memoir chronicles surviving—and thriving—despite postpartum depression.

Growing up on a Mennonite farm in Canada, Tallman, one of 11 children, was no stranger to hard work. Her father was an abusive disciplinarian who mellowed as the years passed (she eventually forgave him), but her mother was a kind Christian woman who was loved by many. Tallman married, and after having a girl and a boy, it seemed like she had the perfect family. At the age of 41, she had just begun a new career as a chaplain in a veterans’ hospital when she unexpectedly became pregnant with her third child. After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, she should have been happy—but she was not. Grieving the deaths of her mother and brother, she began to spiral deeper into overwhelming depression. At her darkest moments, she shockingly contemplated killing herself—and her baby. Desperate, she turned to her doctor and, after attempting to hang herself, she was committed to a psychiatric ward. Divided into three parts, this slim memoir begins with Tallman’s story and includes some typical color family photographs. In Part II, she veers from her personal account, claiming that resilience is the key to recovery and that anyone can develop it. In this thoughtful, essaylike discussion, the author writes that “Resilience is the Result of Hundreds of Tiny Steps.” More details of her own process of recovery would have made this advice stronger, but she does note that exercise helped and describes some therapy. In Part III, she cobbles together ideas for the prevention and care of postpartum depression (for example, education). Tallman’s smooth prose flows quickly, and even though some of the experiences she recounts were rough, her voice remains gentle. Her childhood anecdotes contain a vivid mixture of lovely images and sad memories—there’s the sweet smell of farm earth being tilled in spring, and then there are the horrifying times she was molested by a teacher. Always realistic, the author’s soothing suggestions can be a helpful beginners’ guide for those who are suffering similar trauma.  

An unblinking and valuable portrait of hope.

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5255-4114-8
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
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