The LovebirdThe Lovebird by Natalie Brown
Published by Doubleday
Unsolicited review copy provided by the publisher

From the publisher:

Margie Fitzgerald has always had a soft spot for helpless creatures. Her warm heart breaks, her left ovary twinges, and Margie finds herself smitten with sympathy. This is how Margie falls in love with her Latin professor, a lonely widower and single father who trembles visibly in class. This is how Margie joins a band of ragtag student activists called H.E.A.R.T. (Humans Encouraging Animal Rights Today) in liberating lovebirds from their pet-store cages. And this is how Margie becomes involved in a plan so dangerous, so reckless, and so illegal, that she must flee her California college town, cut off contact with her dear old dad, and start fresh in a place unlike anywhere she has ever been. Introducing one of the most unforgettable heroines in recent fiction, The Lovebird is a novel about a girl who can’t abandon a lost cause, who loves animals, and who must travel to the loneliest place on earth to figure out where she really belongs.

From time to time I can be a shallow reader and decide to read books because of the cover alone – which is exactly what I did in this case. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this gorgeous cover, and so I picked up the book and began reading, knowing exactly nothing about what I’d find within the pages.

Imagine my happy surprise upon learning how wonderful The Lovebird is! Admittedly, the beginning is a bit slow and Margie makes a lot of incredibly stupid choices that have enormously bad repercussions – sleeping with her professor only the first in a long list. What bothered me the most about her relationship with her professor was not the relationship itself, but it was that he had a young daughter, a girl who’d already lost her mother, and this girl was now getting emotionally attached to Margie, only to see her father’s relationship with Margie eventually come to its inevitable end – it was just sad! Don’t bring kids into something like that, people!

Anyway, that’s really only a small part in a story about Margie’s growth as a person and as a woman in a scary and confusing time in her life. She literally has to run from the law, and hide from the authorities in a remote Native American reservation, living among complete strangers, some of whom really, really don’t want her there. She’s a shy and quiet person who has gone through life latching onto people and causes and matching her own personality to those around her – and now, in this isolated town, she must find a way to become herself, to figure out what kind of person she wants to be in the world and work toward becoming that person.

The Lovebird is kind of a love story, but it’s more a coming-of-age story, and within its pages are sordid relationships, violence, animal activism, deep sadness but true reawakening of people’s spirits. This is a quiet novel but don’t let that scare you – there’s real depth of emotion here, real people figuring out life, as messy as that can be. And it’s very beautifully written. I really enjoyed it.