A Book Review

SH-Guide to birdsMy husband and I once watched a documentary on the cult leader, Jim Jones, who was responsible for the deaths of 900 followers in a mass suicide/murder in Guyana in 1978.

I know, kinda grim, right? But I have a point to make so please bear with me.

Jones was all about controlling the minds of his followers, and one of his favorite methods was sleep deprivation.

In order to keep his followers in line, he ranted incessantly over loudspeakers set up throughout the camp. Believe me, no one slept and that ranting would be difficult for anyone to withstand.

Well, here’s my point—nowadays there are times when I feel like someone trapped in that camp with a “leader” who just will not shut up.

So I have become mindful about limiting my exposure to the “Incessant One.” I never listen to the news in any form, either on the radio or on television, so I never hear his voice. I turn off all my devices on the weekends because I figure the world can get along without me for that period of time.

And I read charming, thoughtful, quirky, funny, lovely books to feed my heart and soul.

All of which brings me around to this wonderful book with a funky title: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson.

Originally published in 2008, Birds is a gentle, charming, rather off-beat love story about an older gentleman (and passionate ornithologist) named Mr. Malik. He lives in Nairobi, a successful (now retired) businessman. He is a widow, and has outlived one of his two children. The surviving child, a daughter, is a lovely young woman.

For the past two years, Mr. Malik has participated in a weekly bird walk conducted at the Nairobi Ornithological Society led by a woman named Rose Mbikwa. Mr. Malik has known for a long time that he is in love with Rose, and he has made rather timid plans to invite her to accompany him to a prestigious dance event.

Things seem to be proceeding slowly but nicely until a rival from Mr. Malik’s high school days shows up—with plans to invite Rose to that same dance.

In order to avoid putting Rose on the spot, the two men agree to a competition for the right to ask her. Whoever spots the greatest number of birds in a week is the winner.

This book has it all, moments when I literally laughed out loud and moments when I teared up. I learned about Nairobi, about birds that I will never see but can appreciate, I came to admire the morals and ethics of Mr. Malik, and I loved meeting all his friends.

And it is very well written.

In other words, it’s exactly what I want in a book right now.

Reading A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is like floating in a warm summer sea. You will be lulled by the book’s disarmingly simple prose style, its philosophical bent, the wonderful birds, and the unexpected twists and turns of Mr. Malik’s love for a woman named Rose.

I just had to share.

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