cover image 142 Ostriches

142 Ostriches

April Davila. Kensington, $15.95 trade paper (258p) ISBN 978-1-4967-2470-0

In Davila’s vivid, uplifting debut, a free-spirited woman navigates her obligations to a dysfunctional family. Tallulah Jones, 24, works at her grandmother Helen’s ostrich ranch in the California desert while planning to follow her dream of joining the Forest Service in Montana. After Helen’s suspicious death in a car accident, estranged family members gather at her funeral, including meth-addicted Uncle Steve, who is furious that Helen left the ranch to Tallulah. With a buyer for the ranch, Tallulah looks forward to Montana, until Laura, the nomadic and alcoholic mother she hasn’t seen since she was 13, shows up wanting a share of Helen’s estate and threatens to contest the will. Tallulah finds comfort in caring for the ostriches, but then they mysteriously stop laying eggs. As Tallulah gets help with the animals from a sympathetic local while fighting the volatile Steve and riding out Laura’s demands, she reconsiders her future. Davila’s breezy, elegant prose captures the desert’s growing appeal to Tallulah (“Finally, the sun cleared the horizon and blasted everything with its full light”; “There wouldn’t be mornings like this in Montana”). The fascinating details of operating an ostrich ranch elevate this family tale. Agent: Joel Gotler and Murray Weiss, Intellectual Property Group. (Mar.)