- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: House of Anansi Press (Sept. 11 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0887842437
- ISBN-13: 978-0887842436
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 381 g
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #582,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
One Bird's Choice Hardcover – Sep 11 2010
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Quill & Quire
There was a time, not so very long ago, when the idea of a young adult moving back in with his or her parents after leaving home to pursue an education, adventure, or gainful employment would have been viewed as an aberration. These days, however, the tendency for twentysomethings to return to the fold while they “figure things out” is increasing.
Cashing in on current interest in the so-called “echo boom” generation is card-carrying member Iain Reid, who at 26 moved back in with his parents while working part-time at a low-paying, seasonal job for the CBC in Ottawa. What was supposed to be a short summer sojourn metamorphosed into a year of napping on the couch, drinking his dad’s beer, and having his mom do his laundry.
Reid is a natural storyteller, and One Bird’s Choice is full of charming anecdotes and vividly described characters. But there is little substance here. Despite the fact that Reid spends most of his time unemployed, dishevelled, and bored, he actually reveals very little about his motivations for staying put. Is he depressed? Has he made the wrong career choice? Is he just a slacker?
Reid acknowledges a certain degree of shame in his situation, but the impression one gets is that he stays because he can. Mom and Dad (we never learn their names) welcome him with open arms and no expectations. He eats their food, sleeps in his old room, and aside from helping with a few chores, contributes almost nothing. It’s not so much that he wants to take advantage of his parents, it’s just that they make it so damned easy.
Mom and Dad are the best part of the book, by far. Their banter and idiosyncrasies provide pure entertainment, though they do come across as a bit daft at times. Reid owes them a world of gratitude, and a year’s worth of back rent.
In a related vein, respected journalist Marni Jackson is a hippie-turned-hipster mom navigating the uncertain waters involved in allowing her son, Casey, to chart his own course to adulthood in her follow-up to 1992’s much-lauded The Mother Zone. That book was a frank and poignant account of motherhood during her son’s first eight years. Home Free picks up the thread almost a decade later. Casey is a university student in Montreal, but Jackson is still attempting to choreograph the young man’s complete exit from under his mother’s wing.
Unlike Reid, Casey never returns home for an extended period of time. He travels, drops out of school, re-enrols, and temporarily floats home to Toronto or the cottage for family vacations. Still, the apron strings stretch pretty far, and what Jackson explores is the notion that maybe kids, hers included, aren’t entirely at fault for their ennui: “We [boomer parents] read articles about the listlessness of the ‘boomerang generation,’ their entitlement and lack of direction. We don’t like to consider how our overparenting may have contributed to this.”
Though Home Free is built around her own experiences, Jackson’s use of statistics and academic references lends weight to her idea that the boomers have set their children up, if not to fail, then certainly to be on a slower course to adulthood than any generation before. Indeed, for every foolhardy adventure Casey strikes out on, Jackson has a story (albeit a richly described and archly witty one) of her own such adventure that trumps it. The difference being, as she reiterates several times, the world has changed since then. When Jackson was her son’s age, a person could be a flake for a few years in her twenties and still land on her feet. A young man could backpack through Europe without his parents following his every move on Twitter or Facebook, so it was easier to establish independence.
Jackson compares and contrasts generations throughout the book – not only her own and her son’s, but also that of her parents. The result is a thoughtful and thought-provoking work that, despite occasionally feeling like a series of magazine features that have been stitched together, is sure to enjoy the same positive reception as her first parenting memoir.
One Bird's Choice...is both about the Boomerang Generation and an example of how that generation got its name. (Wayne Grady The Kingston Whig-Standard 2010-09-04)
Reid's writing is...engaging and humorous. (Britt Harvey The Winnipeg Free Press 2010-09-11)
Reid is a genial narrator, and you don't tire of his voice. (Rebecca Wigod Vancouver Sun 2010-09-11)
Reid isn't trying to teach anybody how to eat, pray or love: he simply observes himself, his family and all their laughable idiosyncrasies. . . (Jessica Allen Maclean's 2010-09-16)
Reid has aptly captured the angst, humour and quirkiness of his year at home... (Anne-Marie Tobin The Canadian Press 2010-06-16)
. . . hilarious, absurd, and sweet. (Caitlin Fralick Kingstonist 2010-09-20)
The real heroes of the book are Iain Reid's parents, delightfully quirky and ever loving... (Geoffrey Brown Ottawa Xpress 2010-09-30)
...kids and parents will find it particularly enjoyable. (Kristen Coughlar Kingston EMC 2010-09-30)
...gentle but hilarious humour that had me chortling without a break. (Elaine Kalman Naves Montreal Gazette 2010-10-14)
Cross James Herriot's tales of bucolic British life with Mike Myers' comedic portrayal of his Scottish Canadian family in the film So I Married an Axe Murderer and you end up with Iain Reid's hilarious memoir One Bird's Choice. (Jack Rubenstein Shelf Unbound 2011-06-01)
A true sense of place is the greatest gift an author can give us as travellers. We talk of Hemingway's Spain or Austen's England . . . I'm not sure the narrator realizes all that he has captured in his pages . . . He's captured a time and place that defines a giant piece of this province, its traditions, and its history. (Andrew Evans National Geographic 2011-07-07)
Top Customer Reviews
This honest, humbly humoristic and charming story was so refreshing! The Reid family should have a B&B so that we could all experience this wonderfully charming farm life and its lovingly eccentric inhabitants. Wonderful book, highly recommended.
To me, this was one of those books I couldn't put down, and was genuinely sad once it was over. It reminded me of my relationship with my parents; how their uniqueness is a part of me; how laughter goes a long way to appreciating your similarities and differences.
As a fan of John Kennedy Toole, I see Iain slipping into almost "'Ignatian"' garb at times: lying face down on his parent's living room floor musing over the refuse under the couch in an attempt to block out his parent''s inane banter; planting spiteful thoughts behind the vacant stares of his father''s sheep only to flip them on account of their insolence; punching out a mother hen for her eggs and then reminding her that he didn't want it to come to blows.
It must be said that even though Iain''s character may start out an Ignatius, with a few relapses here and there, his character grows in charm with every passing page.
I think I might just move back in with my parents?
One Bird's Choice is the memoir of that year. What struck me first was Iain's descriptions of his parents, their conversation, actions and idiosyncrasies. The affection her feels for them is very evident is his writing. Never identified by name, Mom and Dad are the headliners in this book. They are quirky and slightly eccentric, but oh so comfortable with their lives and each other. I couldn't get enough of their everyday life. The common and mundane take on a whole new look. Mom and Dad really do live life on their own terms.
Their rural property- Lilac Hill - is home to many and varied animals. The book takes it's title from Lucius - the last guinea fowl left on the farm. Guinea fowl are communal birds. Mom is relieved when Lucius chooses his new flock - the family. Iain - not so thrilled. The bird follows him around and makes him late for work many times.
One Bird's Choice is divided into four parts, based on each season. Iain's state of mind and emotions during his year at home seem to mirror the seasons. Although definitive words such as depression are never used, his descriptions of not wanting to see friends, sleeping and eating too much and 'hibernating' populate the Winter chapters. But by the time Spring rolls around, Iain finds contentment in seeing the farm come to life, lambs being born and the simple joy in sitting outside in the sun.
There was just one small sour note for me. I'm not sure if Reid was taking literary license in describing a scene with a hen reluctant to give up her eggs, but really Iain - not cool to punch a chicken.
Nothing earth shattering happens in One Bird's Choice, there are no great aha! moments or epiphanies. Rather, it a slow gentle read filled with lots of humour, warmth and the realization that yes - you can go home again.
Congratulations to Iain Reid for winning a CBC Bookie for Best Non Fiction book for One Bird's Choice.
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