From Goodreads: A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME, a novel by Barbara L. Monier,
takes place over the summer and fall of 1972, in the six months
leading up to narrator CATHERINE’s sixteenth birthday. Thrust headlong
into an identity crisis when her mother reveals that she had actually
planned to marry someone else, Catherine decides to begin a journal in
an effort to find solidity and permanence in her own life. Hilariously
funny, impetuous, impatient, sometimes annoying and always remarkable,
Catherine freely quotes literature, pops pills, and casts her eye
unflinchingly around her world as she takes the reader through a
unique coming-of-age tale.
During the awkward summer in which Catherine is just barely too young
to get either a paying job or drive, she learns that her fraternal
twin sister Lizzy has been accepted at a prestigious dance academy and
will be leaving home, separating the sisters who had begun their
lives, Catherine muses, “so close that every bit of our bodies was
pressed tight tight together, a time when we didn’t even understand
that we were two different people, but just felt somehow that we were
one being with an extra bunch of limbs.”
As Catherine’s mother continues to drop hints about a former life and
a lost love, Catherine decides to undertake her own detective mission
to piece together the puzzle of her mother’s past. As she scours the
nooks and crannies of her home, she finds remnants of her own
childhood as well as her mother’s youth. When Catherine ultimately
discovers a large bundle of letters from her mother’s former lover, as
well as a handful that her mother wrote to him, she encounters a young
woman who seems to be an entirely different person than the mother she
Catherine sneaks the letters from their hiding place every chance she
gets and pours over them in her room; meantime, a very confused
cardinal continually attacks his own reflection in her window.
Catherine becomes nearly obsessed with both her mother’s story and the
troubling behavior of the bird, her feelings for each one paralleling
the other as she moves from concern, to anger, to frustration.
Set quietly against a background of radically shifting times – the
near end of the Vietnam War, racial tensions, changing sex roles and
more, A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME is ultimately a deeply affirming story.
At the book’s end, as Catherine lay in traction following a car
accident, she has learned lessons from her own experiences, her
mother’s, and from the relentless bird; she is ready and resolved to
move forward in a fully realized, fully embraced life.
I loved this book and it probably got me into more than a little
trouble at work. I didn’t want to stop reading it. I can’t really
explain what it was about this novel, but I found Catherine to be
fascinating. It wasn’t really that I could relate to her, but I found
her interesting and wanted to continue seeing the world through her
eyes. It is incredibly well written and makes you think a little
harder about your own life. It’s absorbing and rich in emotion. Anyone
that is as much of a coming of age story as I am will love this book.
It’ll bring you back to your own sixteenth birthday and maybe make you
think about it a little differently. I loved the letters and what they
revealed about Catherine’s mom. It hit home that you don’t always know
everything about your parents and that there may be secrets there that
you would never guess. I think that anyone looking for a good story
should pick this up and dive right in.