cover image A Catalog of Birds

A Catalog of Birds

Laura Harrington. Europa, $16 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-60945-403-6

Harrington (Alice Bliss) reexamines familiar topics in her second novel, tenderly sketching a portrait of war’s lasting impact on veterans who returned from the conflict alive but not entirely whole and the loved ones who were waiting for them at home. Billy Flynn, a young man with a deep connection to the wildlife in his sleepy upstate New York hometown, struggles to reassemble his shattered life after his medic helicopter is shot down in Vietnam. Billy’s failed attempt to rescue his copilot leaves him with severe burns, nerve damage that destroys his ability to fly or draw, and guilt-laced anger that drowns out his efforts to sleep at night or pursue his old ambitions during the day. His younger sister, Nell, puts her college plans on hold as she fights to hold her disintegrating family together. The narrative progresses slowly, digging unflinchingly into the wounds that linger long after a battlefield has been emptied. While some plot threads are left dangling at the conclusion, Harrington excels at creating believable characters with nuanced motivations. Her prose sings, sweeping through heavy topics with a quiet sense of resilience and buoyant hope. (July)