cover image Conversations with Birds

Conversations with Birds

Priyanka Kumar. Milkweed Editions, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-571313-99-7

Novelist Kumar (Take Wing and Fly Here) wows in this sparkling exploration of her relationship with the birds that serve as her “almanac” and help her tune “in to the seasons” and to herself. Kumar recalls her childhood in a “remote mountainous area” in India, where she was “immersed in nature.” When she moved to California as a teenager, her relationship with the outdoors changed: “My thoughts were leafy green but all around me was the roar of a petrochemical civilization,” she writes. In her 20s, she found solace—and lessons—in birding: the curlew, for example, whose “unhurried pace combined with its focus and laser-sharp moves when it found an invertebrate to eat was nothing short of arresting,” showed her Zen principles in practice, while sandhill cranes are “like us... transient visitors here.” Kumar’s reflections are rendered in elegant prose and are rich with vivid descriptions: “At the brink of the water, turquoise with milky sprays, the birds pirouetted and scooted away from the vigorously choppy waves.... Watching the sanderlings flirt assuredly with the waves and scuttle up and down the beach like delirious children at play in the honey-gold light, my heart lightened.” These outstanding reflections will inspire and enlighten, and are perfect for readers of Diane Ackerman. (Nov.)