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Gr 8 Up-Mercy, her mother Pearl, and her Aunt "Moo" have been on a downward socioeconomic slide for some time. As the novel opens, the teen is adjusting to yet another new school and to the realization that her aunt's boyfriend, who made sexual advances toward Mercy and threatened to hurt her if she told anyone, is due to return from an overseas job. Like her mother, who has become clinically depressed, and her aunt, who has retreated into an alcoholic haze, the girl begins to withdraw. A new friend and her employer keep reaching out to her and, to her credit, she hangs on to the ropes they throw. When Mercy's mother is hospitalized for her depression and her aunt's boyfriend returns, Mercy finds the strength to stand up to him. The novel deals with issues of poverty, depression, suicide, molestation, and alcoholism with delicacy, but without glossing over the harsh realities. Aunt Moo and Pearl are unconventional yet believable. The situations at school, especially when Mercy is interacting with her peers or the school counselor, are painfully realistic. The only weaknesses are in a few minor details, including the bird image of the title that is awkwardly woven into several scenes. Even though there is no Hollywood ending, readers are left with the hope that this family will find ways to rebuild the unit they almost lost.-Lucinda Lockwood, Thomas Haney Secondary School, Maple Ridge, BC
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