Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. ~ Opening of The Hummingbird




The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan
William Morrow, 2015
Fiction; 320 pgs

Once a well-respected history professor who was brought down by an academic scandal, Barclay Reed does not have long to live. Hospice worker, Deborah Porter, is a registered nurse assigned to care for him, one of many hospice nurses in a few short weeks. Deborah proves to be a good match for the cantankerous elderly man. She takes comfort in her work. Her home life is in turmoil. Her husband is home after his third tour of duty in Iraq and has come back a changed man. Deborah desperately wants to help her husband, but doesn't know how.

As Professor Reed and Deborah grow closer, she longs to know more about Professor Reed's past; what exactly happened to make him a pariah in the academic world? When Professor Reed learns of Deborah's home situation, he strikes a deal with her. He will tell her a story, the story that ended his career, if she will read his manuscript to him one last time. Within that manuscript, he assures her, she may find answers to help her on the home front.

Professor Reed has no one. He has burned his bridges and is dying alone. He is not an easy man to like or get to know. Deborah hopes that in his final days, he is able to make peace with his past and himself. Through the sharing of his research and final manuscript with her and her sharing her own story with him, perhaps he will be able to.

The novel alternates between Deborah's perspective and Professor Reed's manuscript. Stephen P. Kiernan effectively uses a story within a story through Professor Reed's manuscript to tell the story of a Japanese fighter pilot, Ichiro Soga, during World War II whose mission was to target strategic locations over the United States mainland. His is a tale of courage and hope, themes that carry over into Deborah's own story.

I took an instant liking to Deborah. I once considered going into hospice care as a career. Deborah is a fully realized character, as is her husband, Michael, and Professor Reed. She is dedicated to her job, in helping not only her patients, but also their families, through one of the most difficult times in their lives. She helps the dying find peace.

Deborah's husband, Michael, has come back a little more changed each time he returns from military duty in Iraq. This third time, he seems like an entirely different person. He is withdrawn, on edge, easy to anger, and at times violent. He has lost interest in all that he once loved, including, it would seem, Deborah. As someone who helps others for a living, Deborah wants only to help her husband, only, she isn't sure how. Everything she tries seems to fail. I felt for both Michael and Deborah. Deborah's love for her husband, her feelings of helplessness, and Michael's anger and fear are all so palatable.

The Hummingbird turned out to be an emotional read for me, striking a personal chord. Although he fought in a different war and I never knew him before it, the effects of the war on my father were noticeable. I saw bits of my father in Michael. I also saw him in Barclay Reed, from his love for history, particularly World War II, to his dying. This is one of those novels I wish I could push on my dad--I think he would have liked it. Most of all, I wish he was around so we could talk about it together.

Healing and forgiveness are at the center of this novel as it deals with the difficult topics of war and dying. Stephan P. Kiernan expertly takes three seemingly different stories, one from the past and two from the present, and weaves them together. The Hummingbird is an emotional and thought provoking novel that will resonant with many readers.


To learn more about Stephen Kiernan and his work, please visit the author's website and Facebook page.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about June on the TLC Book Tours route!



Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.  Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.




© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

22 comments:

  1. That does sound like an emotional read. I have a feeling I'd like Deborah too - it takes someone special to do that job well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy - I found it to be emotional. My poor husband just gave me that knowing smile when I finished the book and couldn't stop the tears. :-) Deborah is a great character, one worth getting to know.

      Delete
  2. I think I might like this one very much at just the right time. I'm intrigued by your description and some parts of it remind me of my own father as well. Good review, Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay - Thank you, Kay. It was such a great read. One of my favorites this year so far.

      Delete
  3. Oh, this sounds good. The effects of war are timely, although we often shy away from them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenclair - It's easier to pretend everything is okay than to face the reality, especially when it comes to the effects of war. I do recommend this novel, if you get a chance.

      Delete
  4. I passed on this book because it sounded too emotional but now I'm really regretting it. It sounds like a beautifully poignant story. This is really a fantastic review. It really gives me a sense of how the book feels and makes me want to go out right now and buy it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katherine - I read The Curiosity by the same author and while I liked it, I didn't love it. It made me hesitate before accepting this one, but I couldn't resist the WWII tie in. I'm glad I didn't. It's really good.

      Delete
  5. It sound like a wonderful but angst-y plot.

    I do like your review of it, however, and I too wanted to do hospice care a few years ago when I returned to college & was a sociology major thinking of social work. My disabilities grounded my dreams, but I applaud those who help in that profession. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rita - It was emotional to be sure, but understandable given the circumstances the characters are experiencing. I quite enjoyed it.

      Sometimes I consider making a change in my career to hospice care, but I'm content where I am right now for the time being.

      Delete
  6. Sounds good. Alternate story lines can be tricky, but it sounds like this one works.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lark - I really liked the way the author combined the two time lines. Stories within stories don't always work for me, but it really did in this case.

      Delete
  7. This sounds like a heartfelt read with some intense story lines. Glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This sounds like a good read, and not to mention emotional too. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Wendy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melody - It was very good. I look forward to seeing what the author comes out with next.

      Delete
  9. Oh my goodness! I'm presuming this one is best read with a box of tissues at the ready.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy - Yes, a box of tissues is a must. At least if you are a cry baby like me. :-)

      Delete
  10. I can imagine this would be quite the emotional read. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Iliana - It was very good. I'm so glad I read it.

      Delete
  11. I think this book would have a similar emotional affect on me, and that is all the more reason to read it.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather - Oh, yes! Do read it if you get the chance. I think you'll really like it. :-)

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.