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Elsewhere In the Land of Parrots Hardcover – July 1, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A love story with an ornithological spin, this latest novel by poet, novelist and translator Paul (Medieval in L.A., etc.) leads its two protagonists deep into the hinterlands of South America. Fern Melartin is a naturalist interested in the aratinga erythrogenys, a species of parrot. It inhabits the mangrove swamps below Guayaquil, Ecuador, which is why Fern incautiously accepts a job at an animal reserve in that area offered by the reserve director, Leonard Qualles, leaving her fiance, Geoffrey, back in Arizona. Soon she discovers that the reserve is more like a zoo, and Qualles is a rat whose louche mannerisms conceal murky business. Fern is fired on drubbed up charges (Qualles doesn't want observers around for long), but finds refuge in Puerto Alegre, a coastal village in which two American Peace Corps volunteers are living. She is happy until she receives word that another supposed researcher into aratinga erythrogenys wants to meet her. David Huntington is in Ecuador on a fluke. He is a San Francisco poet, the opposite of a life-affirming Whitman type. A major fellowship has recently allowed him to quit teaching pick-up classes at Mills College. However, the real changes in David's life occur after his father gives him a parrot-an aratinga erythrogenys that he names Little Wittgenstein. The parrot runs wild in his apartment, so he lets it out the window; then he feels so guilty he looks for it, researches parrot life and generally begins to encounter the real, physical world he has spent his lifetime sedulously avoiding. Finally, after discovering a flock of feral aratinga erythrogenys, David decides to take a boat to Ecuador to see the birds in their native habitat. Paul's story successfully weds an odd theme-the ethology of parrots-to the perennial fascinations of human courtship behavior.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A reclusive poet and an adventurous scientist with nothing in common but an unusually keen interest in parrots find love in this witty, charming--if not entirely convincing--novel by the author of Catapult (1991) and Medieval in L.A. ( 1996). The poet, David, having in childhood developed a vague, but powerful, fear of, well, just about everything, is so averse to the world outside his apartment, he has a bookcase blocking his bedroom window. The opposite who attracts him is Fern, a doctoral student unafraid to venture alone into the mangroves of Ecuador in search of an elusive species of small, green parrot. Separately, both are appealing. David is especially winning. His earnest, clumsy steps to break out of his self-imposed isolation provide most of the book's humor, which ranges from sly to slapstick. But the romantic attraction feels contrived, arriving too fast and flowing too smoothly. Still, because Fern and David are so likeable, readers very likely will set aside any skepticism and just be glad for their happiness. Karen Holt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151004951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151004959
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,486,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, gentle and kind, funny and thought-provoking, too. The Amazon book description above gives the story but doesn't give, really, any idea of how good a read this is. By the time I was about a quarter into the book, I hated that it was going to end. So, every night before going to sleep, I would pick it up again and begin to read, slowly, savoring the descriptions, savoring the images, laughing out loud. And it lingers on now in memory as I wonder about those SF parrots, conures, are they really there? And I wonder, too, that irritating childhood question at the end of a book, And then what happened? ...They all live happily ever after, undoubtedly, except for those few who shouldn't.
I passed ELSEWHERE... on to a friend and she, normally a greedy reader, consuming a story in a couple of hours, reacted very similarly.
This a sweet book. I can't recommend it more highly.
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Format: Hardcover
"Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots" is a love story for people who love parrots -or perhaps for all bird-lovers. There are two parallel stories. David is a reclusive post-modern poet living in San Francisco with a cherry-headed conure named Little Wittgenstein. Fern is a graduate student working on her thesis in Ecuador, trying to observe cherry-headed conures in the wild. When David and Little Wittgenstein's differences prove irreconcilable, David ejects the bird to fend for himself in the treetops of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Fern is working on a wildlife preserve in exchange for room and board and trying to stay focused on parrots while growing increasingly disillusioned with her prospects of finding them. Feeling guilty for evicting his avian roommate, David becomes preoccupied with learning about parrots and immerses himself in studying the birds. As chance would have it, he is forced out of his apartment just as Ecuador beckons him.

Anyone who has not himself or herself been bitten by the birding bug might find David and Fern's obsessions odd and the idea that people can discover new life and love through birds eccentric at best. But those of us who have been captivated by the birds outside our windows -or in a pet store- and have gorged ourselves on information about them and developed a great respect for the creatures will recognize David and Fern's preoccupation. "Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots" takes on a familiar quality for bird lovers. People really do act this way, and one can discover a world of things through birds. Jim Paul's prose isn't masterful, but it's fluid and precise. The book is a pleasant read, and where I otherwise would have been bored by a romance, the birds kept me interested in this one. I think bird lover's will enjoy "Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots".
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By A Customer on August 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful read. A sweet and humorous tale of a bright, but slightly neurotic poet meets adventurous girl scientist. Her research on parrots in their native habitat and his guilt over throwing his screeching parrot out the window, leads them both to Equador.
I love to read a novel in which I not only enjoy the story, but also come away with a little more knowledge than I had before I started the book. The descriptions of Equador and it's terrain did just that. One does not have to be a bird fancier to enjoy this story. This book was well worth the time and money. I plan on sending my copy of Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots to my daughter who happens to have one of those screeching conures in her living room.
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Format: Paperback
A mystical summons may have caused the major characters in ELSEWHERE IN THE LAND OF PARROTS to pursue a flock of conures into the mangrove forests of Ecuador. Even though I don't expect to receive such a call, I could appreciate the boisterous challenge issuing from the novel's parrots. "Wake up!" they seem to say. The parrots are Nature's representatives in this book, and Nature is shown to be everywhere--in the city, on an ocean-going freighter, in a cage in the jungle. A person who dares to open his eyes to the world will find his life enriched, as do the reclusive poet David and the somewhat naive zoologist Fern in this charming and often moving book.

Wherever the story goes, Jim Paul smoothly and efficiently evokes a strong sense of place. Descriptions are lyrical but unsentimental. It's a joy to follow David's emergence and Fern's explorations as they take the steps that will ultimately bring them together. There is a quirky sense of humor at work but also an underlying urgency. The parrots need people to look out for them.

I have two parrot roommates and couldn't help but be drawn to the round inquisitive eyes of the conure--or shall I use the more elegant word "aratinga"--on the cover. I was glad that the novel's birds act like BIRDS. They are not the talking stereotypes who utter improbable punch lines on sitcoms.

However, one does not need to be a bird-fancier to enjoy this book. The reader will meet charming characters, travel to exotic places, and find new wonders in even commonplace surroundings. It's a well-written story about awakenings, and about journeys with hopeful endings.
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Format: Hardcover
If you love birds, or animals in general, and quirky characters in your novels, give this one a try. A beautifully written story with an upbeat message awaits you. If you liked "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" (book or movie), this book will hit the spot--Mark Bittner (as a character) even has a cameo role. I also learned more about Ecuador than I ever knew before which opens up another whole arena of interest. Enjoy!
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