Review – The Nature of Small Birds – historical fiction

Finkbeiner, Susie. The Nature of Small Birds. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2021.

Summary of The Nature of Small Birds from the publisher

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

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My Review of The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

I was in junior high at the time of the Babylift from Saigon. I actually don’t remember much about it from news stories. It was a sad time but there were good things that happened. In The Nature of Small Birds, author Susie Finkbeiner shares about one of those good things. 

The Matthews family lost much during the Vietnam war. When the path to adoption for one of the brothers leads to the adoption of a Vietnamese little girl from the Babylift. As you can imagine there is some friction over bringing a child into the family who is a product of the war that killed one brother and left another with PTSD and a mother (grandmother) who is very bitter. 

This historical fiction novel has three timelines – 1975, 1988, and 2013/2014. Finkbeiner does the multiple timelines successfully and in a way that is easy to read. The 1975 portion of the story tells how Mindy came to join the family and the struggles that went along with it. The 1988 part of the story tells of Mindy and her sister Sonny as they spend their last summer together before Sonny goes away to college, and both have their first boyfriend. A sister Holly joins the family that summer through a surprise birth. In the 2013/2014 portion of the story Mindy is recently divorced and has started the process of finding her birth family in Vietnam. Sonny is a mother and she would do anything to help Mindy. Holly is about to get married and because she is so many years younger is unaware of some of Mindy’s history. 

I found The Nature of Small Birds to be an enjoyable read. While this is an adult historical fiction work, I do think that it is appropriate for a K-12 Christian school library. I think it could find an audience as young as seventh or eighth grade. It would be a perfect addition to a unit on the 1970’s and the Vietnam war.

I received a complimentary copy of The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner. This is my honest review. 

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