What it is: Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan is set in India, where 13-year-old Koly must prepare for her arranged marriage. Her husband turns out to be quite sickly, and soon after the wedding leaves her a widow. According to Indian culture, she doesn’t have a future without him. Koly has to learn to survive–and hopefully thrive–on her own.
What I liked about it: I loved this book so much that I finished it in two days (admittedly it’s not particularly long, but carving out time in my schedule isn’t easy). Whelan is clearly a talented writer–her imagery is vivid, the pacing is perfect, and the Indian culture is portrayed in a way that emphasizes its difference while making it accessible and comprehensible. Koly’s character is easy to relate to, despite her foreign circumstances, and readers sympathize with her struggles and celebrate her successes.
What I didn’t like about it: This book is written for ages 10+, so my only qualms come with the territory of being an adult reading middle-grade fiction. Occasionally I found the language a bit simple and juvenile, and Whelan could’ve done more showing and less telling. I can’t blame the book, though, since both of those elements are appropriate for its target audience.
Memorable quote: “I still would have had a little place inside me to go, a place I could wrap myself in like the cocoon a caterpillar makes. You can touch the cocoon, but you cannot touch the little thing inside unless you tear it apart.”
Overall rating: 5/5.
Challenge satisfied: #7, read a book that takes place in Asia.
Additional notes: I chose to read this book because I’ve always been fascinated by the tradition of arranged marriages. It’s so different from modern American culture, and that theme definitely kept me engaged throughout the story.
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