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The Bird Woman: A Novel Hardcover – August 22, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316076236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316076234
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,305,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A phone call summons 36-year-old Southern Irish Catholic Ellen McKinnon to her estranged and dying mother's bedside in Derry, North Ireland, in Hardie's brooding sophomore outing (following A Winter Marriage). The phone call sends Ellen on a brief and darkly nostalgic trip that provides a thumbnail sketch of her past: an abusive first husband (now dead); a stillborn child; her clairvoyant "seeing" that landed her in a Belfast mental hospital; her initial encounter with Liam, who later becomes her second husband. The narrative follows their relationship, as sculptor Liam struggles to make a name for himself in the art world and Ellen's clairvoyance transforms into the power to heal the sick. At Liam's insistence, and with the encouragement of her friend Catherine, a former nun, Ellen begins working as a healer, forcing her to come to terms with her new role in the community and confront the prejudices (both her own and others') that separate northerners from southerners. Hardie's prose has its dull moments ("she was as happy as a lark") and the narrative may be too slow for some, but patient readers will be rewarded with a tender exploration of a woman's search for a sense of place. (Aug. 22)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Terri Rowan on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Ellen McKinnon has a talent that some would consider a gift; but for her, it's a curse. It started with a terrifying premonition that nearly destroyed her. Her unsupportive husband preferred to have her committed to an institution than deal with the fears that surrounded her vision of a bombing.

When Ellen meets a Southern Irish sculptor in Belfast, her world begins to shift in another direction. Where Ellen's husband is brash and unsympathetic, Liam is gentle and understanding. He accepts her differences in a way she is unused to between the Northern and Southern Irish. She's a Presbyterian, and he's a Catholic. Even though they are largely non-practicing in their religions, the long-running strife makes it difficult to get beyond their bias, yet Ellen feels drawn to Liam.

In Southern Ireland with Liam, Ellen comes into the power of healing, despite her unwillingness to embrace it. As word of her talent spreads, she is beset by people wishing to have her healing touch. Eventually, it becomes part of her, Liam's, and their children's lives. As she comes to terms with her roles as wife, mother, and healer, Ellen learns to accept who she is. But the journey is not complete. A sudden call from her long-estranged family will open doors she prefers to keep locked. If she hopes to find her own healing, she will have to return to Northern Ireland--the home she left far behind.

Hardie weaves Ellen's tale in a lyrical voice true to the Irish people. Sometimes poetic, sometimes harsh, the narrative is reminiscent of an old friend sharing a difficult story over a pot of tea. With her characteristically direct tongue, Ellen shares her memories as though the reader is sitting with her at a table--from the beginning, but with the perspective and awareness she possesses today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By annie on September 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm torn. I enjoyed the book, even if I found it a tad too wordy at times, not to mention a tad too abstract. The main character of Ellen, left me baffled and frustrated from beginning to end. Her emotional distress was deep as the lakes of Killarny. Unlike those crystal lakes, the root of her distress was NOT crystal clear. Her problems went far beyond the inability to accept her healing hands; in fact, it seemed to begin in the womb, or at least at her mother's knee. Granted her mother was not the most nurturing or loving of women, but there were no concrete instances penned by the author to make you say...."AH! There's the problem!". Kerry Hardie seems to have a penchant for authoring disturbed and disturbing main characters...check out her previous novel. Ellen's angst notwithstanding, I don't think you'll regret reading this novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Residing in Ireland, thirty-six years old Ellen McKinnon begins her trek home to Derry, North Ireland to say her goodbyes to her dying mother. She thinks back to her past when her first late husband physically and mentally abused her; she dreams of her stillborn child; her time in a Belfast mental asylum because she foolishly mentioned her clairvoyance visions; and finally when she first met Liam, her current spouse, who has encouraged her to be all that she can be.

A sculptor Liam and their friend the former nun Catherine coaxed Ellen to share her gift with those ailing. She began to become involved in her community. Before long as her reputation grew, Ellen tried to tear down the mental loathing that divides Northerners from Southerners as she sought a sense of belonging to her spouse, her birth nation, her adopted country, and her heritage.

THE BIRD WOMAN is a poignant character study focusing on a woman searching for a sense of purpose and place that she can call home. The story line is somewhat passive as Kerry Hardie concentrates on insuring the audience understands what makes Ellen tick. The support cast augments the full understanding of a somewhat reticent outsider with divided loyalties trying to find where she fits in.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
From the time she runs off to marry bad boy Robbie, Ellen is filled with a divisiveness that will define the direction of her life. Seeking to escape the cold judgmentalism of her widowed mother, Ellen flees her demons by flying precipitously into relationships with men. A solitary, taciturn child with flaming red hair, Ellen has never cultivated friends, trapped on the barren islands in an isolation so pervasive that she is held captive by her own dark nature. She has the rare gift of seeing, to Ellen a burden and an unwelcome intrusion, yet another mark of her difference from others, her unbelonging: "If you do not bring forward that which is in you, that which is in you will destroy you."

When Ellen meets Liam in the North of Ireland, she is still married to the wild, sometimes savage Robbie and flees from him to the south with Liam, who is Catholic in name only, but still steeped in the culture of his upbringing. Once settled in her new home, the otherness is more pronounced, the familiar trappings of her Protestant youth replaced by the Catholic south and the mores of this new environment: "Peace it may be on paper, but it's an armed and arm's-length peace."

Clinging to Liam, Ellen is forever at war with her nature, waging a pitched battle at what Liam calls "the Healing", for fear that it will destroy her: "I'm all twisted up inside... I'm doing the best I can." Over time and with the steady support of a friend, Catherine, Ellen accepts her gift and begins to use it for the good of others, all the while conscious of the isolation inherent in her circumstances.
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