More than 25 years after serving in the Gulf War, Marty Bird still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In fact, neighbors recently phoned Marty’s daughter, Julie, in Vancouver to report that Marty seems to be getting worse, bellowing in the middle of the night and disturbing people’s sleep. Julie is perplexed, scared, and upends her life to return to Port Braid, a coastal town in British Columbia, to assist her ailing dad. After all, her mom is dead, and there are few friends able or willing to care for the elder Bird. Once home, however, Julie discovers that Marty’s decline is just one of a slew of issues tormenting local residents. Shockingly, a whale has washed ashore, and other animals—bats, caribou, deer, eagles, fish, hares, mice, raccoons, skunks—are dying in record numbers, drowning themselves or careening into walls or mountains. On top of this, a stranger has come into Port Braid and is captivating everyone in her orbit. Calling herself Jennie Lee Lewis, or JLL, she is a Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator. In short order, JLL has convinced Marty to let her perform in the restaurant he owns and move into the bungalow he’s lived in for decades even though Julie is still staying there, too. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that JLL and Marty have a shared history, but it is never clear why she tracked Marty down at this particular time or what she is hoping to achieve from the reunion. And these are not the only befuddlements. The story also suggests that wide-scale death is a necessary component of Earth’s rebirth, a curious concept for characters without overt religious convictions or a clearly articulated interest in spiritual matters.
A mysterious and unsettling debut touching on grief, mourning, environmental calamity, and the healing potential of friendship.