This week’s book club novel was a heart-warming story about a little girl named Comfort whose family runs a funeral home in Mississippi: Each Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles. All who had read it agreed that the story had a certain charm to it, and that the novel was well-written. We tried to pinpoint what would make something ‘well-written,’ and after discussing several aspects, such as character development and plot structure, we decided that it was more a feeling that one gets when reading a book, and that it differs for each person. Wiles is a relatively unknown author, and so we briefly discussed her other works. Only one person had read another of her novels, The Aurora County All-Stars, and admitted that it is does not compare to this one.
We agreed that the story has a very unreal feel to it. Comfort has attended many, many funerals, and seems at-ease when it comes to death, even when it is in relation to someone she knows. Someone made mention that in most children’s books it seems that death is only dealt with in terms of the elderly or a pet, rather than a parent or friend. We tried to think of a text that does not follow this pattern and came up with Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. Additionally, in terms of being unrealistic, the entire community appears close-knit. While this may not be reality, this characteristic aligns the text with the idealistic myth of American small town life.
We discussed how place-based the story is, even including a map at the beginning of the novel. Some of the things characters say, such as Comfort’s aunt’s exclamations of “Glory Hallelujah!” are very southern America. Several of us noted its similarities to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, another southern-based novel. We found Comfort’s narration to be much like that of Scout, and both Peach, Comfort’s cousin, and Dill are said to be based upon Truman Capote. However, we had no knowledge as to whether or not this classic text was a conscious inspiration for Wiles’ book. The author had recently moved to the South upon writing Each Little Bird so we thought perhaps that helped influence her choice of setting.
Lastly, we discussed the names of the characters. All were quite unique: Comfort’s parents were Bunch and Joy, and her siblings were Tidings and Merry. One person noted that in other countries, such as China, authors purposely pick the names of characters based upon the names’ meanings. We could not say for sure if authors in the Western world did the same, though we were all certain that authors generally do not choose names haphazardly. Perhaps the names in this book were used to give the tale that fantastical, unrealistic feel that connected it to the idealistic small-town feel.
This was our last meeting of this term; however, we have decided upon the first Hunger Games novel by Suzanne Collins for our first meeting next term. Mark the date on your calendars: 11 October at 17:00. Until then have a lovely summer!