I’d like to welcome Isla Morley, author of Come Sunday to Peeking Between the Pages today. Come Sunday is a wonderful novel that takes you on a journey through a mother’s grief over losing a child to finding in herself the will to move on again and choose life. You can see my review of Come Sunday here.
Isla joins us today with a personal story that really hits home with me. She talks of losing a family pet but finding joy in another – that really the only thing you can do is open your heart and love again. Grab your favorite drink and read Isla’s story of Birdie…
I came home from grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago and on the kitchen counter, commanding the attention of my husband, my daughter, the dog and the Siamese cat was a collection of fuzzy feathers and a big, wide-open orange beak. I wanted to say, “Oh, no, no, no. This is all going to end badly. C’mon, everyone, back to your senses,” but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. A baby mockingbird was throwing a tantrum. Birdie wanted num-nums, and she wanted it N-O-W.
She scampered over to me and gave me that look. “You have to feed her!” I yelled at my husband. (You’d think after eight years of motherhood I would be impervious to such obvious displays of manipulation.)
“I have fed her,” he said. “Three times already.”
“Well, then, feed her again. She’s starving.” I looked at the little bird and cooed. And then we were all lost, all of us hopelessly smitten with a curmudgeonly bird marching up and down the kitchen counter.
Birdie kept us on a rigorous schedule. I’d wake up at dawn to the sound of a cheep as incessant as the smoke detector when the battery dies. I’d poke my husband in the ribs. “Birdie’s hungry.” The feeding ritual – a goopy mix administered by a syringe – would then go on for the next sixteen hours with very little interruption. After a gargantuan meal, Birdie would nap. For about three minutes. And then the whole process of fluttering wings and high-pitched chirps and acting cute would start up again.
My husband took her to work, with all the requisite paraphernalia. I considered buying a diaper bag. On Sunday morning, as he conducted the worship service, Birdie got to sit right in front of the pulpit and try out her cutsie act on a couple hundred people.
On Monday, a week after falling out the nest, Birdie began flying lessons. Her tail feathers were just starting to grow out but she was eager to launch off my daughter’s finger and flap her way to a rather smooth landing on the office floor. When she grew tired, she nestled in my daughter’s neck and went to sleep, for three minutes. Life was great. Perfect, really. My girl was happy, my husband was enjoying motherhood and Birdie had beaten the odds. And then…
A friend came to visit the latest family member. After she held the bird for a minute, she passed it to my husband. Being passed from my husband’s hands to my daughter’s, Birdie seized on the opportunity for another flight lesson. She fluttered quickly to the floor amidst very big shoes. Sensing the danger, my daughter quickly knelt down to retrieve Birdie before someone stepped on her. In the split second it takes for disaster to strike, Birdie fluttered to the patch of carpet just where my daughter’s knee was about to land.
It’s an awful sound, silence.
In place of Birdie’s cheep, came the razor-sharp silence of self-recrimination.
I kept wanting to say something, kept waiting for my husband to say something, but what? Nothing made sense. There was a wild thing beating in my chest, and I only had to look at my daughter’s tear-streaked face, to see how she couldn’t right herself, to know the wild thing had gotten her worse. Something had taken our best intention and flipped it on its back, made us realize there’s no defense against accidents, or grief.
We buried Birdie in the corner of our yard under the old oak tree. There wasn’t any answer to the question, Why. A couple days later, a crazy idea materialized and its name was Puppy. Now, in the back room of my head lives a very old naggy lady who does the crossword puzzle and has impeccable hearing and likes to tell me what I write isn’t fit to print. When the word “puppy” was whispered between my husband and I, she said, “If you jokers can’t take care of a bird, how are you going to take care of a dog?” But I remembered the lessons I learned from writing Come Sunday, how eventually there is nothing left to do but risk your heart again, love again.
We brought home for our daughter a chocolate-colored fuzzball. The old lady neighed, “You’re never going to get any work done with that thing around.” We’ll, she’s sometimes right. The fuzzball wakes us up at dawn, and wants to play way past bedtime. She chews everything in site, teases the Siamese and pesters the tortoise. It doesn’t matter that my writing has stalled this summer because we are all head-over-heels again.
Isla, thank you so much for sharing this story with us. You have a way of telling any story that manages to capture my heart. I really look forward to your next novel. Come Sunday is such a special novel that it won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for 2009!!! You can check info on what this award is here. Come Sunday was also a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize and longlisted for South Africa’s premier literary award, the Sunday Times Literary Award.
About the Book
Abbe Deighton is a woman who has lost her bearings. Once a child of the African plains, she is now settled in Hawaii, married to a minister, and waging her battles in a hallway of monotony. There is the leaky roof, the chafing expectations of her husband’s congregation and the constant demands of motherhood. But in an instant, beginning with the skid of tires, Abbe’s battlefield is transformed when her three-year-old daughter is killed, triggering in Abbe a seismic grief that will cut a swath through the landscape of her life and her identity.
Clawing its way through the strata of grief comes the memory of another tragedy, one that has been tucked away for twenty years. If Abbe is to find a way through blame and guilt and find redemption she must confront the last summer of her youth.
It is a journey that will take her back to the continent of her childhood, bringing her face-to-face with her past, to the old witchdoctor’s hut where curses were cast, secrets kept and a crime concealed. Abbe will have to make the harshest of choices, choices which blur the lines of life and death, responsibility and forgiveness, murder and self-defense.
Come Sunday is a novel about searching for a true homeland, family bonds torn asunder, and the unearthing of decades-old secrets. It is a novel to celebrate, and Isla Morley is a writer to love.
About the Author
Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.
By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.
She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.
I have 1 copy of Come Sunday to share with my readers. To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries blog or tweet this giveaway to spread the word.
This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Sunday, October 2/10. Good luck everyone!
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