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What Birds Can Only Whisper: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 1997

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"...its well-drawn characters and genuine emotion make it a first-class novel." -- The Halifax Chronicle Herald, March 1998

About the Author

Julie Brickman PhD, is a psychologist and therapist who has worked in the area of sexual trauma for 17 years. She did the first study of rape and sexual assault in Canada, has coordinated a rape crisis centre, and given talks and workshops in the field. She has published fiction and non-fiction in Fireweed, Kinesis, and the International Journal of Women's Studies.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Turnstone Pr; 1St Edition edition (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0888012144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0888012142
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,994,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julie Brickman is the author of the story collection, Two Deserts, to be released Oct 1, 2013 and of the novel What Birds Can Only Whisper. She has published her work in the North American Review, the Louisville Review, the Barcelona Review and other journals. She teaches on the faculty of Spalding University's MFA in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky. Her honors include grants from the Canada Council, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and a writer-in-residence position at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. Also a clinical psychologist, Brickman spent seventeen years in private practice before becoming a writer. A New Jersey girl, she now lives in Laguna Beach, California.

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Format: Paperback
What Birds Can Only Whisper is the story of Kendra Quillan, leader of a rock band with an impassioned following, but oddly incapable, herself, of certain forms of passion. The story begins the morning after a sexual encounter that Kendra can't remember. Her blackout is due not to drugs or alcohol but to the ravages of long-ago incidents that Kendra has for years successfully blocked out ... until those damaged places in her soul are stirred by a man who truly loves her.

What follows is the opening of the protective walls Kendra has built to shield herself from a truth too painful to bear. In the end, love requires of Kendra a confrontation with the past that will either save her life or drive her to madness.

In Kendra, Julie Brickman paints a devastating but beautiful portrait of the trauma survivor's exodus from self. No other author has so skillfully and imaginatively evoked the mysterious half-world where the traumatized go to survive. And no other author has ever illustrated so vividly the delicate act of navigation by which a survivor finally returns to herself.

Brickman's harrowing yet deeply compassionate book, dedicated to the silenced inside us all, speaks in ringing tones of the freedom that comes from facing the evils of the past, and of the joy that, in the end, runs deeper than sorrow.
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Format: Paperback
"Those of us that bear witness to the excretions of evil, we are the contaminated ones. ... The doers of evil possess no such dilemma. They walk without shadows in the light of the sun."

Kendra Quillan stands on the precipice of success, and she is a time bomb waiting to implode. This dichotomy drives the leader of the all-woman rock band, Survivors. Pretty, talented, and finally in love, Kendra begs the question: What's wrong? She has a penchant for self-destruction, and she cannot remember making love to her adoring boyfriend, only that she is good at it.

In truth, Kendra suppresses certain events, stores them inside birds of split personality and scatters them over the vast landscape of her mind. In the birds, Kendra compartmentalizes her past--serial incest so severe since infancy that only the hardiest of souls could survive its cognitive weight. However, the birds whisper over the rough terrain, and what Kendra refuses to hear will destroy her future, her life, if she does not help them name her memories.

Dr. Julie Brickman has dealt with severe trauma for over two decades. How the mind copes with trauma is as brilliant and beautiful as Brickman's depiction of Kendra's birds flying home to heal their soul-sick creator. Brickman fearlessly takes the reader into dark places, using precise language that evades many authors during uncomfortable dramatic material, but like Kendra, the author cannot escape the truth and delivers it with sparkling resonance, hope, and understanding. Or like Kendra says as she emerges from the hell of her past: "Maybe jokes are pinpoints of light from stars already exploded. For this, she needs words, the exactness of words, and their silence." What Birds Can Only Whisper gives voice to deep silent suffering and reveals a path to release.
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Format: Paperback
We know that birds, dating back to prehistoric knowledge, must be the bearers of great secrets. In WHAT BIRDS CAN ONLY WHISPER, Julie Brickman uses birds to carry us -- in their varying colors and plumage, in the song and screech of their calls, in the flutter of their wings -- to the most unbearable secrets. This is the story of a young woman scattered through a series of images: the dollbaby, the outdoorswoman, the trances of a singer/songwriter, all whose most painful memories of sexual abuse are carried away by the yellow-rumped warbler, the ruby colored cardinal we meet on the first page, the taloned hawk that claws after smaller, innocent prey.

Perhaps the greatest triumph and the most difficult reading comes in the way Brickman gives both victim and predator a full human form. We'd like to believe that a father could not abuse his daughter (that any adult male could never abuse a child this way) without being detached, or without some major portion of himself or his soul missing. BIRDS shows us otherwise. This predator is purposeful and entitled. The worst is the way he views his daughter as something made for him -- something he systematically shapes and takes for himself.

BIRDS is a story of images and colors, of unbearable secrets made bearable by the beauty and the care of the birds that bring the past to light. This novel has an incredible sense of human knowledge and responsibility. Like her birds and her main character Kendra, Brickman calls out to us all, singing for those whose warbles and songs and screeches would not reach us without her.

And thankfully -- Thankfully! -- for this one survivor, love is strong enough to win.
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