The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard
5/2/23; 432 pages
The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard is a very highly recommended literary novel. This one is absolutely wonderful and transformative. It will be on my best books of 2023.
Irene, formerly Joan, has had a broken childhood and a challenging time growing up. After her mother died, she lived with her grandmother, who changed her name to Irene, to avoid any connections to her mother. Irene went to art school and we meet her when she is twenty-seven and planning to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge because she cannot handle the most recent tragedy in her life. Rather than jumping, she ends up traveling a long distance into Central America where she ends up in La Esperanza at a lakefront hotel called La Llorona, and meets Leila, the owner.
The Bird Hotel is a sweeping story spanning four decades, starting from her childhood in the 1970s. This is the story of her life and her healing in La Llorona, a place of overwhelming beauty with carefully chosen plants in the garden, a volcano nearby, and many different species of birds. The title comes from something Leila said, that La Llorona should be called the bird hotel due to all of the birds.
Maynard's writing is exquisite, lyrical, descriptive, and perceptive. Her words create a rich, textured story that will transform you. In a plot which encompasses a life, the same incredible care to detail is used to describe people, the landscape, and situations. This is a narrative that encompasses grief, healing, courage, empathy, and passion, with a little magical realism.
Irene is a richly drawn, fully realized character who comes to life. This same care to detail is taken when describing people in Irene's life and guests at the hotel. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys literary fiction, sweeping sagas covering a life. The Bird Hotel will be on my list of best books in 2023.