In The Café Birds, Five women, Paige, Caitlin, Megan, Nita, and Grace, former colleagues meet regularly at different cafes to share their hopes, dreams, troubles, and joys. Each is hiding a secret from her friends and each is hoping for a life-changing event.
The story follows their trials and their successes as they share their friendships over coffee.
Theme of the Book
While husbands and children provide a grounding for many women, it is the friendships they share with other women that really make a difference in their lives. Friendship, as described in The Café Birds ,is accepting, giving, and being open to sharing. This is what most women need in their lives and should count themselves lucky to find.
What I Liked About the Story
The women of The Café Birds are the women we meet and we know throughout our lives. They may be our work colleagues, our family, our neighbors, or, if we are fortunate, our friends. The characters in the book are truly human.
Grace, the youngest, is beautiful and talented but still finds herself attracted to men who will use and abuse her. Her beauty and talent do not translate into self-confidence. It is only with the help of her friends, sometimes not easily accepted, that Grace comes into her own as a woman. This is especially true of Caitlin who undergoes the most drastic transformation. Beaten down by a super-critical mother and an even more critical husband, Caitlin finally discovers that she is worth loving. She finally is able to find joy in life, much to the acclaim of her friends. These two characters portray women caught in unhappy relationships who are able to break away from their past behavior to find a new life.
In the stories of Paige and Megan, we find women who are suffering because they have lost children. Paige’s marriage is in trouble. Her soldier husband not only suffers from PTSD as a result of his deployments, but also suffers from guilt at the loss of their baby. Megan, who at the beginning, seems the most together of all, is hiding a secret that keeps her from allowing herself to love.
Finally, Nita lost her husband, the love of her life, and is alienated from her teenage daughter. Nita is searching for a way to reconnect not only to her daughter, but to life itself.
The women are connected through their past work and also through their pet birds. Each woman has a bird emblematic of her personality. Thus the name “café birds”.
The novel presents a slice of life. Readers will laugh, cry, and hope that they, too, can become members of the Café Birds.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
While the individual stories are engaging, this is not really a novel. It is more a set of short stories or sketches brought together under the umbrella of a group of friends. I understand that this book was previously released as a 5-book set. It would make sense for the author to issue five novellas, each centering on one of the women, rather than a novel. There wasn’t really an overarching plot that went from introduction through conflict to dénouement. Instead, each separate plot was woven, not altogether successfully, into one book.
Like most romance or chick-lit novels, this one has a “happily ever after” ending that I did not find realistic at all. It is amazing that life’s most serious problems: death, financial loss, abuse, and loneliness, can all be solved in 200 plus pages.
Finally, since the author emphasized the idea of birds throughout the book, I wish she had extended the symbolism to include character traits and actions.
The Café Birds is an easy read, perfect for the beach or a long plane ride. Readers who enjoy romance, though this is not strictly speaking a romance novel, should definitely enjoy it.