Sugar Birds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom is a very highly
recommended literary coming-of-age novel that is a story of
survival and, ultimately, forgiveness.
In Northwest Washington State in 1985 ten-year-old Aggie Hayes loves climbing trees, looking at the nests of wild birds, and later sketching what she saw. Her mother, who is suffering from depression and is unstable, angrily tells Aggie to stay on the ground and climb no more. Aggie later lights a small fire and thought she had put it out, but it later spread and burned down the families home. While her brother Burnaby is at their Aunt and uncles farm, their parents were burned in the fire. Aggie escapes the fire. Believing her parents have died and sure that she will be arrested, she runs away, to hide in the woods.
Celia Burke, sixteen, is left at her grandmother’s house by her
father so he can go work a job on an oil rig. She's not sure how long she is
going to be there and secretly makes plans to escape and perhaps
make her way back to her friends in Houston. Shortly after she
arrives, a search party is formed to find a missing girl, Aggie.
Celia joins in the search with Burnaby, Aggie's autistic brother
but notices another searcher, handsome dangerous Cabot Dulcie.
The narrative covers the two storylines, which eventually converge, of Aggie trying to live and survive on her own in the woods and Celia's teenage angst and anger toward her father. Celia becomes a part of Aggie's story as she continues to look for the young girl. Readers will have to suspend some disbelief as Aggie manages to live on her own and encounters real dangers, while also overlooking Celia's occasional impetuous behavior. Both of the girls are strong characters and the other supporting characters help add a depth and gravity to the plot. Burnaby is an especially compelling character along with Celia's bird biologist grandmother.
The writing beautifully captures the descriptions of the natural
world and the love, care, and connection the characters have to it. The
plot move at an even pace and the rich details help make it a compelling
novel. There are several heart stopping scenes and events that present
true danger to the characters. This becomes a story that covers a number
of themes: survival, healing, trust, forgiveness, restoration, and
redemption, along with details about various birds. Every theme is
gracefully connected to the characters in the story, although some of
the lessons are hard-earned and painful.