SINGING BIRD by Roisin McAuley


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Debut about a woman who searches for her adopted daughter’s birth parents, then makes an earnest attempt to grapple with issues of sin and forgiveness, largely within the context of Catholicism.

Narrator Lena, a middle-aged, happily conventional English woman whose active practice of Catholicism is a given, has been married to handsome, successful businessman Jack for years. Their adopted daughter, Mary, 27, is now a rising international opera singer. Out of the blue, Lena receives a phone call from Sister Monica, the nun who arranged for them to adopt Mary as an infant in Ireland and who now says she is checking on her babies as she prepares to retire. The call piques Lena’s curiosity. Adopted herself, she regrets she was unable to trace her own birth parents after her adopted mother’s death. With Jack away on a business trip and Mary about to perform in Dublin, Lena decides to take a week’s vacation in Ireland with her agnostic, mildly bohemian friend Alma before attending Mary’s concert. She doesn’t tell Jack or Mary that, as a kind of gift to Mary, she’s thinking of looking more deeply into Mary’s parentage. While Alma begins a romance with a kindly widower staying at their inn, Lena shifts her search into high gear, helped by the happy coincidence (one of too many) that the innkeeper’s wife is a volunteer at the Natural Parents’ Internetwork office. Gathering clues, Lena begins to suspect that Sister Monica’s brother, the well-known Singing Priest, Father Frank, may be Mary’s father, the reason for the nun’s unusual interest. Lena’s moral code, already challenged by her own secrecy, faces further tests when she realizes that Mary is having a highly publicized affair with a married actor and then learns that Jack, not Father Frank, is Mary’s father. Can she forgive him?

McAuley, a British broadcast journalist, raises potentially interesting questions, but her answers come too easily to her manufactured and bland characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-073788-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2004