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Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Magical realism

Other Birds

by Sarah Addison Allen

Excellent choice

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Quick take

This enchanting novel follows the quirky, soulful stories of the unlikely neighbors in a magical apartment complex.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Slow_Build

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Supernatural

    Supernatural

  • Illustrated icon, Quirky

    Quirky

  • Illustrated icon, Rural

    Rural

Synopsis

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment on an island outside of Charleston she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Other Birds.

Other Birds

Chapter One

The empty wicker birdcage beside her began to rattle impatiently. Zoey gave it a sharp look as if to say they were almost there. It stopped.

She glanced at the cabdriver to see if he had noticed. The old fig-shaped man was watching her in the rearview mirror, his silver eyebrows raised. Several seconds passed and he continued to stare, which she found disconcerting because she felt his eyes should really be on the long bridge over the water. But he seemed to be waiting for her to respond.

“Did you say something?” Zoey said. He hadn’t spoken a word since his Where to? when he’d picked her up at the airport.

“I asked if this was your first trip to Mallow Island.”

“Oh,” she said. “Yes.” The birdcage rattled in disagreement, but she ignored it this time. It was her first trip. The first trip she could remember, anyway.

“Sightseeing?”

“I’m moving there. I start college in Charleston this fall.”

“Well,” he said, drawing the word out like a tune. “Don’t hear of too many people moving to Mallow Island. It’s mostly a tourist place because of that book by Roscoe Avanger. You know it?”

Zoey nodded, distracted now because the small sea island had just appeared on the horizon and she didn’t want to miss a moment of it. It was rising from the marshy coastal water like a lackadaisical sea creature sunning itself, not a care in the world.

The closer they got to it, the more her excitement grew. This was really happening.

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Why I love it

When you find an author you love, and they publish a new book after many years away, cracking open the first page is like sinking into the arms of an old friend. I wanted to read this book slowly, absorbing each word carefully, yet I found myself rapidly thumbing through the pages with tears in my eyes. Other Birds is the story we all need right now, lyrical and heartbreaking and layered with hope. This book casts an unmistakable spell on its readers, and Allen writes with prose that feels like pure alchemy, as if each sentence were a summoning of autumn air and long-forgotten magic.

The story begins when eighteen-year-old Zoey arrives at her deceased mother’s home on the island of Mallow, which is known for its marshmallow confections. A cobblestone, horseshoe-shaped building called the Dellawisp—named after a variety of local birds—becomes Zoey’s unlikely home. The other residents who live in the Dellawisp are a curious mélange of outcasts, ghosts, and birds, but on the first night, when one of her neighbors is found dead, Zoey’s quiet summer becomes something quite extraordinary. And soon enough, the other residents of the Dellawisp become a found-family that Zoey never expected.

If I could rent a condo in the Dellawisp for the summer I’m certain I’d never leave. This book is more than the sum of its parts . . . there is something hidden among the margins of white paper and black ink—true sorcery that only Sarah Addison Allen can master. As she has done with all her previous books, she infuses a rawness and humanity into this delicate genre of magical realism that reminds me why storytelling is true magic. In short, this book is comfort food of the sweetest kind.

Member ratings (21,248)

  • Galina S.

    Plainfield, IN

    OMG I loved this book!! I fell in love with Zoey and the other characters! Such a sweet story. I am not an emotional person but this one tugged at my heartstrings in such a special way. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Jordyn H.

    Woods Cross, UT

    I devoured this book! It was so beautifully written, I fell in love with the characters right off the bat. It really gives you a sense of love and hope for community and found family. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Nikole G.

    Lincoln University, PA

    I really enjoyed this book!  I liked the magical / afterlife piece to it. I really didn’t want the book to end. I was so invested in each character’s story that I wanted to see even more unfold. 

  • Alyssa S.

    Kalispell, MT

    Such a beautiful story about the brokenness all of us have in the past & the hope of letting go of that brokenness for the future. Loved the diverse characters & the writing style. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

  • Melanie C.

    Long Beach, CA

    I don’t know how you can’t love this sweet, endearing book. It makes your soul warm. There’s heartbreak and joy and love. You are there, at the Dellawisp Condos, with all the residents and it’s real❤️

Magical realism
A Short Walk Through a Wide World
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
The Astonishing Color of After
The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World
All of Us with Wings
The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic
Magical realism
View all
A Short Walk Through a Wide World
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
The Astonishing Color of After
The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World
All of Us with Wings
The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic