cover image Plumage


Nancy Springer. William Morrow & Company, $23 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-380-80120-6

Budgies and a midlife crisis catapult a sorrowful heroine into a magical world of self-discovery and love, as the prolific Springer (Fair Peril) continues her theme of feminist-inspired fantasy. The aptly named Sassy Hummel gains some much needed spunk when she learns to take a bird's-eye view of life. Sassy's husband of 27 years has just run off with a sweet young thing, her mother has Alzheimer's, she's lost her house, been forced to sell her jewelry, and now the only job she's qualified for is maid at the posh Sylvan Tower Hotel. To make matters worse, a bird in the hotel atrium just pooped on her head. After the statuesque, brightly festooned Racquel (owner of the hotel's upscale boutique, Plumage) cleans her up, Sassy takes a peek in the mirror to assess the damage. Instead of her own reflection, she sees a little blue budgie. As a matter of fact, Sassy begins seeing birds everywhere: some people are cranes and some are crows; Racquel appears to be a large, colorful male hornbill. Worried that others will think her nuts, Sassy keeps this secret gift to herself. Racquel is concealing her own whopper of a secret and, before long, the two heroines find themselves stumbling through a looking glass into the forest of lost dreams, where it is up to Sassy to find her true self again. In creating the character of Racquel, a girlfriend with a difference, Springer has redefined the concept of ""knight in shining armor."" With a touch of Alice Hoffmanesque magic, a colorfully painted avian world and a winning heroine, this is pure fun. Instead of ""What's your sign?"" perhaps readers of this airborne novel will start asking each other, ""If you were a bird, what kind would you be?"" (Dec.)