All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld: Book Review

All the Birds Singing“The human eye senses movement before all else.”

There’s a downside to writing a novel that hinges on some mysterious past event. On the one hand, if you don’t provide any answers your audience will be frustrated and rake you over the coals for lacking closure. On the other hand, oftentimes the answers never live up to the expectation–the rest of the novel becomes disappointing once you know what secrets lie in its heart.

The latter is the problem with All the Birds, Singing. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem, I suppose, if Evie Wyld didn’t spend so much time making the first half of the book as difficult as she could. There are multiple timelines at work and there is no pattern to how their chapters alternate. You have to figure out from context clues where you are in time, and while it gets increasingly obvious as you delve deeper into the book, it is still very difficult to orient yourself in All the Birds, Singing. It takes real effort to get into it enough to develop a flow for reading.

That isn’t necessarily a criticism, but it does mean that you really need a payoff all the more for the work you’re putting into this reading experience. Balancing what is happening when, trying to piece together what happened in the past that led to this moment, and trying to figure out what is happening in the present is no small feat.

You see, Jake is a woman living alone on an island raising sheep. She has brutal scars on her back and severely dislikes being around other people. Now something is killing her sheep, something that appears to be growing increasingly bold.

You would think that would be enough to propel your interest, particularly when coupled with Evie Wyld’s remarkable prose. Menace lurks on every single page. Violence, or the threat of violence, is omnipresent. Not to spoil anything, but the problem really emerges as the answers either emerge or fall by the wayside. One plotline disappears completely, two never resolve themselves, and when we find out what happened in the past to send Jake on this path it’s almost revoltingly cliched. High school drama over a boy? Your writing prowess deserved so much more, Ms. Wyld. What a letdown.

Grade: C-


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