It’s good to branch out into a genre you don’t generally read much of, or an author not encountered before, and that’s what I’ve done with this contemporary fiction by Australian author Tricia Stringer.
Birds of a Feather is all about family and friendships, old and new. Set in fictional Wallaby Bay on South Australia’s Spencer Gulf, the story features three very different women. There is Eve, battling to maintain her independence after a crippling shoulder injury; her goddaughter Julia, struggling with suppressed grief and the sudden loss of her scientific research job; and Lucy, trying to be the best mother she can be to her two young children, and coping with the absence of her FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) husband.
The first part of the novel sets up the circumstances that bring these characters together: at first unwillingly, each feeling their way in a new situation, trying to overcome mistrust, hesitation and past hurts. Once the women are together, the story really gets going. Before that, there are hints and veiled references to their back stories, tensions, traumas and the circumstances that shaped each one, and it is fun to put their stories together as the novel goes along.
There are references to the Covid pandemic and the dilemmas faced by people like Lucy, an aged care worker, who must try to deal with an emotionally and physically draining experience while also worrying about her kids. It’s a very real scenario that brings home the additional challenges the pandemic introduced to already complicated lives.
The author captures the small town atmosphere beautifully: all the strengths of rural communities, along with the downsides that can accompany living in a place where everyone knows everybody else (and their business).
I found it soothing to be lost in the minutia of others’ lives, and the novel’s resolution was satisfying, even though some aspects felt a bit too tidy.
Birds of a Feather will be an enjoyable read for people who like to read character-based contemporary fiction about real-life struggles and challenges and the ways in which they can be overcome.
Birds of a Feather is published by HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, in December 2021.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.