PLUMAGE by Nancy Springer


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A feminist tale about a middle-aged housewife who’s abandoned by her philandering husband.

So frumpy Sassy Hummel struggles into an ill-fitting pink polyester uniform and goes to work as a maid in an immense, pretentious hotel. The drudgery is endless, although after 27 years of a miserable marriage, it's apparently all she knows how to do. Sassy is befriended by Racquel, the transvestite owner of the hotel boutique selling fabulous feathered dresses and accessories; but Racquel's flamboyant manner and outrageous get-ups make Sassy feel all the dowdier. Life just can't get any worse, it seems—until the day a lost parakeet poops on Sassy's head. It's magic doo-doo, however, which bestows upon Sassy the amazing ability to see the inner birds of others. Racquel, for example, is a hornbill. And when Sassy looks in the mirror, she sees the reflection of an ordinary little budgie. Then the mirror's surface shimmers . . . and dissolves . . . and Sassy steps through it into a mysterious parallel world, a lush jungle where extinct birds like moas and ivory-billed woodpeckers and passenger pigeons still live. There, she encounters heretofore hidden aspects of herself: a strange nature deity bedecked with brilliant feathers, a glorious bird of paradise, and so forth. Eventually, Racquel joins Sassy (and feels right at home). For a while, then, the two pop back and forth between the mirror world and mundane reality. Meantime, Sassy's husband—clueless and flightless—chases after the reluctant Racquel, while Sassy talks it all over with Lydia, a local bird-lover. Yes, the heroine learns to spread her wings and fly again, and there are lots of other well-worn symbols of newfound freedom.

This prolific author (Fair Peril, 1996, etc. etc.) has a remarkably vivid style, but it's not enough to sustain a plot this thin. And passages written from the point of view of the lost parakeet are plain silly: “At this singproud pairdance time, Kleet felt his loneliness most keenly.”

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-380-80120-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2000


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