The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird Hill

Naomi Jackson

A lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centered on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados, The Star Side of Bird Hill is a tautly paced coming-of-age story.

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Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in this stunning debut novel
 
This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.

This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.

Jackson’s Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.

Praise for The Star Side of Bird Hill

“Jackson has written a first novel full of heart and heartbreak, a novel about going home, about the ties that bind three generations of women across years and despite absence. It is a bittersweet lesson in learning to recognize love.”
—Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection)

“Naomi Jackson has written a tender novel exploring the complexities of motherhood and childhood. The Star Side of Bird Hill holds together opposing elements—the book is quiet in the telling, but the story being told is sharp and vibrant. It is as much a story of the fears of childhood as it is a story about welcoming old age with optimism. A book that knows death and discovery. A book laced with pain but shimmering with hope. With care, the narrative addresses huge issues, such as mental illness, mortality, sexuality, and, at its very core, what it means to love another person as they are.”
—Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning


Advance Galley Reviews

A little rough at first but once the Star Side of Bloom Hill opens up, it blossoms. Barbados and Brooklyn are juxtaposed as much as mother and daughter. Gritty yet full if wonder. Look for more from Jackson in the future for sure.

I was not a fan of this book. I couldn't get interested in these sisters and their problems. I'm sorry I can't give it a better review, but I couldn't even finish it.

I enjoyed reading The Star Side of Bird Hill. Although I did find the plot lagging at times, overall it is a well written book that was a pleasure to read. Barbados is a place and culture that I am not familiar with and the authors presentation of the place and its' people was enough to keep me fascinated throughout the reading. The family and cultural issues that these girls endure are what keeps the novel interesting and the excellent prose keeps you moving through it quickly. I would definitely recommend The Star Side of Bird Hill to anyone.

This is a vibrant story full of compelling characters. Star Side of Bird Hill was a refreshing change of pace and a pleasure to read.

A man and a woman unite in love and run from Caribbean island life to the US in search of their future. Two children later, an onset of depression and substance abuse for the woman has her driving away her man and unable to care for the children. The girls are shipped off to grandmother back in Barbados for the summer. There is an instant clash of island ways and NYC attitude. We see the girls face womanhood through the love, friendship, and hostility of the island's young people. Tragedy strikes the family, not once but twice, before we find the girls realizing the world is a harsh planet. Grandma is their rock. This is an emotional coming of age tale from a new voice in the literary world. My thanks to the author and the Penguin First to Read program for a complimentary copy.

The plot of this novel centers on the two sisters, Dionne and Phaedra, but in many ways, it was their grandmother Hyacinth's tale. I found her the most compelling character in the book. I was also somewhat drawn to Phaedra, but I just couldn't believe Dionne. And when she finally grows up, in a strike that seems both accidental and magical, I wasn't with her at all. So there are some lovely points in this book. Barbados as a character comes off very well. And Hyacinth and Phaedra pretty well, even though there's a bit of stereotype haunting Hyacinth. But the other people seemed veiled from me in an important way, and, well, when the girls' father shows up, ridiculousness ensues. I'm not sure what the author was thinking there -- she made some odd choices. I gotta say that the writing was really lovely and lyrical in many places, and I did enjoy reading it. It dragged in places and characters aren't fully formed, I think, but I'm still glad I read it. I learned something of Bajan culture and life. And the author is promising, and I'll look forward to her next effort.

The Star Side of Bird Hill is a wonderfully written piece of work that gives you hope where one would believe there should be none. This story of pain and betrayal will mesmerize you from the first pages and the end will leave you with a feeling that cannot be described with words. This is a poignant story about two young sisters whose lives changed when their mother's mental health dwindles. The sisters go to stay with their grandmother in Barbados for the summer and learn about their family’s history. As the sisters learn about their family's past, they also start to learn more about themselves. It is also here where they have the chance to see the father who walked out of their lives many years past. Though the setting is exotic the relationships dynamic of mothers and daughters, girls and women is absolutely identifiable. I loved this tragic but beautiful story. I couldn't put this book down. It was a very well developed story that kept me interested. I felt the writing transported me onto Bird Hill and I was right there with Phaedra and Dionne watching them go through a life changing summer. The Star Side of Bird Hill is definitely a novel I would recommend others to read.

Overall I was not a fan of this book. I had a hard time picking it up to read, and often found my mind wondering. Although the writing style was not what I normally read, the characters were interesting and easy to relate to. I don't think it was the story that deterred me from continuing to pick up the book, but the writing style. For me there are certain writing styles that I enjoy and that transport me through the pages but this book did not have that writing. When I could focus on what I was reading it was a very well developed story that kept me interested. Even though I did not enjoy reading this I would still recommend it to others to read.

The Starside of Bird a Hill was an enjoyable read. I felt the writing transported me onto Bird Hill and I was right there with Phaedra and Dionne watching them endure through a life changing summer. My heart broke for them as I read about their struggles with their mother. While I felt invested in the characters and the storyline, in general, I found that aspects of Dionne's experience with her father did not ring true. I didn't feel that the girls' relationship with their father was fleshed out enough and this storyline weakened the overall credibility of the story. Thank goodness for Hyacinth whose strength of character held my attention to the end.

I very much enjoyed this book. It is not my usual genre, but it was a refreshing change. The characters are well drawn and I ached for the losses that each of them endured. I couldn't put this book down.

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson A delightful and intriguing book to read. Ms. Jackson weaves an intriguing story about Dionne and Phaedra Brathwaite returning to the island of Barbados to stay with their Grandmother for the summer. Their mother, Avril will join them in a few weeks. They have lived in Brooklyn, New York all of their lives with their mother and father, Avril and Errol. Damen leaves when Phaedra is about 3 years old. Dionne then becomes the caretaker for her Mother, herself and Phaedra for a long time as their mother descended into alcoholism and depression. We hear in third person through their memories about life with their Mother after their father left; as their mother descended into all the hurt and despair of her life. Leaving them on their own most of the time. Once the girls have arrived in Barbados, they learn about their Grandmother and the residents of Bird Hill. They learn so much more than this, learn about their mother as a girl from Hyacinth, their Grandmother. As well as from the residents who knew their mother, Avril. Mrs. Loving was her best friend. Jules a buller man or gay man who was also a friend of Avril as a girl living in Barbados. Jules, scorned by most everyone and yet appreciated for his skill in making clothes and costumes. Dionne and Phaedra acquint themselves with Hyacinth her friends, children of Vacation Bible School their Grandmother requires them to attend, not just one sessions but three sessions. They all are expecting Avril to arrive sometime soon. And Dionne and Phaedre expect to go back to their life and friends in New York. As Dionne and Phaedre learn about their Grandmother, people, friends and island life. The girls tells us about their life with Avril through their recollections of wanting to go home and back to that life in the U.S. When they learn of Avril’s death she is brought home for funeral and burial. Their father returns to Bird Hill wanting to custody of his daughters. Hyacinth fights this. The girls are intrigued by the father, Errol, who has been absent for so long. As they grieve for Avril, learn about their father, Errol. He disappoints them and proves he is unreliable. Both Dionne and Phaedra learn that they have come home. Their home is now Bird Hill. Hyacinth, Dionne and Phaedra have become a family.

I received a copy of this ebook through Penguin's First To Read program. I really wanted to like this book - two women of color and talking about growing up and uncertainty a country not often featured in mainstream literature. While the characters are interesting the story just didn't suck me in. It took me a while to become invested in the characters and for me it didn't really pull me in until almost halfway through the book. There are some interesting questions posed throughout the book but none of them had satisfying answers until near the end. I was also hoping to get to see the character arch of both girls in the story but it was definitely about Phaedra and her growing up. The characters do end up being intriguing, but it took more of the characters sitting around talking than I normally like to really be invested in them. The story is a tragedy with insight into the lives of teenage girls experiencing the confusion of moving from one culture to another.

Wonderfully descriptive writing really transports you to the world of Bird Hill. And though the setting is exotic (at least it is for this Midwesterner) the theme of mothers and daughters, girls and women is perfectly relatable. Loved this heart breakingly lovely story. One of the best I've read this year. I think if you've enjoyed Alice Hoffman's earlier works you'll like The Star Side of Bird Hill as well. **I received an ARC of this book through Penguin's First to Read program**

This was a touching story about 2 sisters whose lives change when their mother's mental health declines. The sisters go to stay with their maternal grandmother in Barbados for the summer and learn about their family history as well as the customs of the people. It is also here they have the chance to see the father who'd walk out of their lives many years ago. As the sisters learn about their family's past, they also start to learn more about themselves. This was a well written story, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

The Star Side of Bird Hill is not just a book. Its a masterpiece. A work that radiates hope from its dark pages. This story of pain and betrayal will mesmerize you from the first pages. And the end will leave you with a feeling that can not be described with words. When I first read the description and looked at the cover I wasn't that fascinated. But they say "Never judge a book by it's cover" and with this book they couldn't be more right. Having read it from the first to the last word I can say undoubtedly that it has become one of my favorite novels.

 


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