Not Even Wrong and 142 Ostriches

 Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins

A few years ago I read Paul Collins' Sixpence House, which was about moving his family to "the town of books", Hay-on-Wye in Wales, where over 40 bookstores thrive in a village of only 2000 or so inhabitants. I enjoyed his writing and so was quite happy to receive this one from a friend and find it a sequel. It's about his autistic little boy and the fun, and fears, that are all part of raising him. As well as the personal stories, he takes us into the history of autism in a way that is never dry as some history telling is, bringing patients and doctors to vigorous life on the page. You'll 
find out who Dr. Asperger was and meet the doctor that Downs Syndrome is named after. And if you've never heard the story of "The Wild Boy", you're really missing something. Paul Collins addresses all these things with warmth and wit, and a conversational style that makes his books a pleasure to read. 

142 Ostriches by April Davila

A story about a young woman trying to run an ostrich farm when everything seems to be conspiring against her. Tallulah Jones was 13 when her grandmother removed her from the care of her alcoholic mother and brought her to the ostrich ranch. She learned the ways of the ranch, the ways of her grandmother, and she learned to love the birds. At 24, she is still living at the farm and helping out, but has plans to go to Montana to fulfill her dream of being a forest ranger. When her grandmother unexpectedly dies and leaves the ranch to her, Tallulah is determined to sell it all and stick with her plan. Then her uncle Steve shows up for the funeral, furious that his mother left everything to her granddaughter and nothing to him. Her mother, Laura, whom she hasn't seen in 11 years, shows up, too, demanding a share and threatening to contest the will. And then, worst of all, the birds stop laying eggs, a problem which, if not corrected soon, will destroy any chance of selling the ranch. 

The setting in the California desert contributes a lot to the story and is beautifully described, but what I really loved was getting to see how ostriches behave and what is involved in raising them. I'm drawn to stories that set me in times, places, or surroundings I'm not familiar with, and in which the author gives the setting a major role. I knew nothing about ostriches, not even that they were raised domestically, so it was fascinating to learn what makes these unusual birds tick. With good writing, strong characters, and an interesting plot, I have no hesitation recommending this one.   


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