Part love letter to the California desert, part intimate portrait of a family reckoning with drug abuse and denial, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut captures the anxieties of a young woman who suddenly bears responsibility amid great stress…
When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything–just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.
Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property–and deeply rooted dysfunction–threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life. With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother’s death, her mother’s alcoholism, her uncle’s covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.
What I thought
Thank you to Kensington Books for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
So, I have been on a roll with truly excellent books. This was a BEAUTIFUL book that has solidly landed among my favorites this year. And it almost feels like fate that I was reading this alongside All Adults Here because I loved it for a lot of the same reasons. I just LOVE reading about family dynamics, especially when they involve messy & flawed families.
This story was a bit on the grittier side, but I think that really fit with the desert setting. And speaking of the (Mojave) desert, this book felt like Dávila’s love letter to it. I have never personally been there, but she painted this breathtaking view of it. It blows me away that this is a debut novel, and I feel like it is absolutely under-hyped. If you need an escape right now, I’m telling you–read this book. I was completely sucked into this story. There was so much going on, but it was always believable. There wasn’t a moment that it felt implausible, and it managed to be one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. And oh, Tallulah, I just loved her–she was something else. Even when I could have just screamed at her, she was one of those special characters that I know I’ll find myself thinking of from time to time.
142 Ostriches is one of those books I loved so much that I hugged it when I reached the end. I still cannot believe that this is a debut novel, I was that impressed by it. I absolutely cannot wait for her next book. In the meantime, though, I’ll be here–pushing this book into readers’ hands. If you enjoy stories about crazy, messy families just making it through life, like All Adults Here, for example, I cannot urge you enough–read this book!