Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wesley the Owl

I’m one of gazillions who are writing reviews of this precious story about Wesley, a barn owl that was adopted at four days old by the ever-patient, ever-caring, ever-loving Stacey O’Brien. Of course, her story captured me at the first sentence, but it was her writing style that kept me engaged and eagerly turning the cyber pages on my beloved Kindle.

This is Stacey’s first book, written as an emotional balm to assuage her immense grief of Wesley’s death. What style she has! In my day job, I see so much writing where the author fails to get their emotion from their head and heart to the page. But Stacey accomplishes this effortlessly, and left me in tears or laughing hysterically. I now find myself squealing, “Not for beagles! Not for beagles!” when my unreliable secretary deludes herself into thinking the red editing pen is her personal chew toy.

Being a writer ruins most books for me because I’m constantly critiquing others’ works. I often find myself muttering with a haughty harrumph, “I’d have written it this way,” like I’m all important and God’s gift to the literary community. But Stacey’s writing style not only kept me from channeling my inner editor, I was completely transported to hers and Wesley’s world.

The night I finished the book, I slept like crap because I was in mourning for a little barn owl who’d passed two years prior. For me, he had just died. That’s when I know when a book has affected me; it stays with me for days afterward.

As a writer, I try to look for the non-visual cues when reaching an emotional dénouement by going for the gut of a character's emotional foundation. Stacey had to do this on an hourly basis since she didn't speak owlese, and it's a sure bet his English left a lot to be desired. The patience required to learn to communicate with an owl made me think of how we humans take talking for granted, yet how much real communication actually occurs?

Stacey’s book is deep and thoughtful, and it was a real honor to read it. I found it pretty wild to discover that I use the same vet she did, and I know Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers of the wild and wonderful Southern California Writer’s Conference, having spoken there six months after Stacey.

Great job, Stacey. Thanks so much for letting us into your life and showing us the quieter, gentler side of life.

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