Thursday, 27 March 2014

Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey


By Dorothy Adamek

When Mockingbirds Sing, Billy Coffey.
From publisher Thomas Nelson ~ What marks the boundary between a miracle from God and the imagination of a child?
Leah is a child from away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice.
Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man.
Her father, the town psychologist, is falling apart over his inability to heal his daughter or fix his marriage. And the town minister is unraveled by the notion a mere child with no formal training may be hearing from God more clearly than he does. 
While the town bickers over what to do with this strange child, the content of Leah’s paintings grows darker. Still, Leah insists that the Rainbow Man’s heart is pure. But then a dramatic and tragic turn of events leaves the town reeling and places everyone’s lives in danger. Now the people of Mattingly face a single choice:
Will they cling to what they know . . . or embrace the things Leah believes in that cannot be seen? 
*****
When Mockingbirds Sing isn’t my usual choice in fiction. I know for sure it doesn’t belong in my beloved historical romance genre, but pinning down where it does belong is not easy. 

I guess my best definition is supernatural. It certainly doesn’t come all stitched up in the end for the reader to set aside, satisfied the story came to a neat resolution.

Instead, the reader may be satisfied they took a journey alongside the characters of Mattingly, and have more questions to ask than those answered.

This is how author Billy Coffey intends it. Unanswered questions lead the reader to explore the possibilities in their own minds and perhaps, ask similar questions of themselves.

Am I clinging to what I know, or embracing the unseen? Is my faith big enough for what I don’t understand?

I read When Mockingbirds Sing as part of Rel Mollet’s Novel Journey Book Club in Melbourne. Chosen for me, it delivered beyond my expectations. I found the story engaging, the writing lyrical and the characters well rounded enough to keep me caring, and elusive enough to keep me asking questions. 

Is young Leah’s Rainbow Man real? Does he represent good or evil? Where’s the line between reality and a little girl’s imagination? The answer seemed to change with each chapter. 

Billy Coffey himself addressed some of our book club questions, and summed up our discussion in this answer. 

"To me, reality is that we don’t always find all the answers in life, and what ones we do find always seem to lead to more questions. I fought myself to keep those lingering questions in the book, to not tie them all up with a nice bow and have everyone smiling at the end. It just didn’t seem honest."

Highly recommended for those looking for something to chew on.

*****

Dorothy Adamek lives in Melbourne with her Beloved and their three gorgeous kids.

She's the winner of the 2013 FHL ~ Touched By Love Competition. Enamoured by all things 19th century, she writes The Heartbeat of Yesteryear, Historical Romance - Aussie style. Come say G'day at her blog, Ink Dots. 



23 comments:

  1. What a fascinating book! Thanks for the review Dotti I am intrigued. It certainly is brave for an author not to tie up a novel, but rather provoke the reader to questions that linger.

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  2. Hi Cat, yes...it works well in this genre. Wouldn't fly in romance. :)

    And there's enough questions in my reader's mind to take me to book 2, The Devil Walks In Mattingly. I want to know what happened in the town before book 1, and that's the promise of book 2. Well played, Billy Coffey. :)

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  3. It sounds like a fascinating read. That review makes me want to add it straight to my 'to read' list. Thanks for sharing it, Dorothy.

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    1. You're welcome, Paula. Having read your books, I know you will love Billy's writing style. :) Let me know what you think when you've finished When Mockingbirds Sing.

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  4. Thanks for this review, Dorothy. As a non-romance reader and one who loves to be faced with questions, this book 'rocks my boat'! Rhonda

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    1. Hi Rhonda, I'm sure you'll love it, then! I think if you're happy to ponder questions, a few unanswered ones only make the read a richer experience. ;)

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  5. I hardly know how to comment, Dotti, without reading it myself. Even so you've given a great outline of what to expect and intriguing it is!
    I am not a lover of loose ends myself. Though in some ambiguous movie endings I like to convince myself of what I'd have liked the ending to have been. However, if book II reveals it, that might settle it. But what if you never get to book II? Have you figured out the mystery yourself?

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    1. Hi Rita, some of the mysteries in When Mockingbirds Sing are meant to make the reader ponder their own faith. I don't think there are answers as such, more the opportunity to examine ourselves in the mirror of this story.

      Other questions, relating to 'what happened' and 'what happens next' will be answered by Billy Coffey in his next book and I think one after that one.

      I know I'll be coming back for more. :)

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    2. Coffey sounds as if he's the master of the "hook". If we write a series, then that's a clever way of getting your readers to want more. Good for him.

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    3. Hi Rita, yes... connecting with characters and wanting to know what happens to them is a powerful pull. As is a town secret, alluded to in one book and revealed in the next. :)

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  6. That's one intriguing book! I'll be recommending it to my bookclub for sure. I really enjoy stories that leave me thinking and broadening my horizons. This sounds like one of those for sure. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Dotti.

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    1. Hi Andrea, you're welcome. I hope you get to read it soon. Not everyone in our book club was sure of what to 'make of it.' I'll be interested to hear your take on it. :)

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  7. Great review, Dotti ~ glad you enjoyed the book and book club :) Here's to next month!

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    1. Hi Rel, thanks so much for the book choice, and yes... can't wait for the next one. :)

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  8. Sounds like an intriguing book, Dotti. Thanks for that review. It make me want to add it to my 'to read' list.

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    1. Hi Carol, I don't think you'll be disappointed. :)

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  9. This one's gaining on my TBR pile, Dotti.... great review. Love Billy's summation at the end.

    Bless,

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    1. Hi Ian, Billy's book 2 is gaining on my TBR pile, but Angelguard is in the lead. :)
      Let me know what you think of When Mockingbirds Sing.

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  10. Sounds like a great book club choice. Have added it to my Goodreads wish list. Thanks for the review.

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    1. HI Nola, you're welcome. Good choice. :) Let me know how what you thought when you've read it.

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  11. Dotti, excellent review! This book sounds like it has an intriguing and unusual premise. Book 2 was released a few weeks ago, for those anxious to continue reading the series. It's a risk to leave unanswered questions at the end of a book, but it sounds like this strategy has worked well with this particular story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

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    1. Hi Narelle, Billy's intention to leave questions unanswered is his way of getting the reader to ponder the same questions in his/her own life. And of course, there's the questions which lead to more stories within the town of Mattingly. The old stories, and the ones yet to happen. I this this works very well with the whole small town/big secrets promise. :)

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  12. Intriguing review Dotti. Thanks.

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