Book Review: The Bird Woman: A Novel by Kerry Hardie

Raised in a strict northern Irish Presbyterian household, Ellen McKinnon was not comfortable with the gift of clairvoyance. After drifting into marriage and spending time in a mental institution, Ellen yearns for change. Her abusive husband makes no effort at their relationship that has suffered as a result of her miscarriage. When she meets Liam, an up and coming Catholic sculptor from southern Ireland she gets the impression of a future with him and takes advantage of the opportunity to escape.

Leaving her husband and going south to live with Liam further alienates Ellen from her family, particularly her mother who was big on the “you made your bed, now you have to lie in it” mindset. Liam cannot understand why Ellen fears and struggles so hard to suppress her gift. Not to be denied, eventually the power manifests itself through an ability to heal and although occasionally helpful, it continues to terrify Ellen. Fearing being an outcast due to her religious affiliation and the gift, she makes few friends. She values her relationship with plain speaking, ex-nun Catherine who frequently thinks as Liam does, that Ellen should embrace her gift to aid those who come seeking healing from her. Confronted with her mother’s terminal illness, family secrets and her own growing powers, Ellen arrives at a crucial turning point in her life.

This is an often slow moving story of a woman who has allowed her life to be ruled by fear. There are times when the reader might like to give the main character a good shake just to wake her up, other times she proves quite insightful and it is those occasions that make the book worth reading. There are some interesting family and religious dynamics going on but the slow pace makes it difficult to fully appreciate them.

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