Finn’s Feather by Rachel Noble and Illustrated by Zoey Abbott

What do you do when a book reaches into your soul and squeezes it so hard you’re left breathless and filled with a wondrous ache and yet the marvel of hope and the beauty of sorrow? You dry your eyes, still your weeping and read it all over again – this time, more slowly, taking in the deceptively simple and heart-warming prose and the gentle joy of the illustrations.

So it was when I had the amazing experience of reading Rachel Noble’s utterly lovely book for children, Finn’s Feather. This is a stark, moving and gorgeous tale about a boy named Finn who, when he finds a perfect white feather on his doorstep one day, believes it is a gift from his dead brother Hamish. I know… right?

The story is about how Finn, thrilled with his brother’s gift, can’t understand his mother’s or teacher’s reaction. His mother hugs him and sighs, his teacher takes a deep breath and smiles (and God, how I hurt when I read their reactions – it was a visceral response). It’s left to his best friend, Lucas to find, with Finn, the pleasure in his brother’s gift and the message it sends: to continue to laugh, love and never forget.

This exquisitely rendered tale of grief and loss, is told very much through a child’s eyes and how they process sorrow so differently. It is so sensitively rendered, so positive in its scope and the message and, believe it or not, happiness it offers (as well as the unbelievably touching acknowledgment of loss) that it should be read widely by everyone who has a child or who has experienced the death of a beloved.

I have been so touched by this story, but also rightly impressed with how it has been told – the care and love that has gone into a difficult and yet important tale in a society that generally doesn’t handle discussions of death at all well. Rachel Noble is to be commended and, indeed, praised for this elegant, poignant work – and for the ways in which she’s used her own experiences to give it such veracity and depth.

Let me give you a bit of background. In October 20102, Rachel lost her son Hamish in a terrible accident at home. As a way of trying to make sense of what happened, of Hamish’s death, as a professional writer, she turned to her craft: she wrote – and wrote and wrote. Knowing she wanted to write a picture book to honour Hamish and everything he means to her and her family, it wasn’t until she came home one-day and found a feather on her doorstep that Finn’s Feather took shape.

Snapped up by a US publisher – the phenomenal Enchanted Lion books, a family owned enterprise, it comes out June this year, including in Australia.

This is such an important book, such a lovely addition to any child’s and family’s library, I cannot recommend it enough. In sharing her emotions, her family’s story in such an accessible and meaningful way, Rachel has given voice to what is so hard to express and, along with Zoey Abbott, given death and loss a tender garment  for us all to don and cherish.

I loved Finn’s Feather and all the complex emotions it stirred, and the big, aching heart at its beautiful centre.

Thank you.

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Book Review: Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog

 

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog: The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman

This book is a collection of columns that Lisa Scottoline, an American novelist, wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and, as the title indicates, they are humorous, reflective, self-deprecating and frankly, really heart-warming. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this rich glimpse into a thrice-married writer, with one daughter, a feisty aging mother, a gay brother and loads of dogs, is delightful.

From braless emergency room moments, to her mother insisting on wearing a lab coat at home and into public space, to her daughter’s graduation(her daughter also has a voice in a couple of the columns: ie. she writes them, and they’re lovely too), to a road trip for book signings and many other things in-between, Scottoline shares them all. I laughed out loud, cried, empathised, and appreciated her frankness. I would often read columns to my partner who enjoyed hearing them.
I don’t normally seek out these kinds of books – a collection of previously published works, but I make an exception for this one. It’s great to read chronologically or to do dip in and out. Described as chick-wit, I think it has a broader appeal than that for what it covers is what effects us all, relationships, family, work, tradespeople, decisions, pets… admittedly, all these are coloured with Scottoline’s specific slant, but once you understand where she’s coming from, she’s hard to put down.

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