How to Turn Into a Bird
by María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer (translator)
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Pub Date 06 Dec 2022 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2022
From the award-winning author of How to Order the Universe, María José Ferrada beautifully details the life and lessons of an unconventional man and the boy who loves him.
After years of hard work in a factory outside of Santiago, Chile, Ramón accepts a peculiar job: to look after a Coca-Cola billboard located by the highway. And it doesn’t take long for Ramón to make an even more peculiar decision: to make the billboard his new home.
Twelve-year-old Miguel is enchanted by his uncle’s unusual living arrangement, but the neighborhood is buzzing with gossip, declaring Ramón a madman bringing shame to the community. As he visits his uncle in a perch above it all, Miguel comes to see a different perspective, and finds himself wondering what he believes—has his uncle lost his mind, as everyone says? Is madness—and the need for freedom—contagious? Or is Ramón the only one who can see things as they really are, finding a deeper meaning in a life they can’t understand from the ground?
When a local boy disappears, tensions erupt and forgotten memories come to the surface. And Miguel, no longer perched in the billboard with his uncle, witnesses the reality on the ground: a society that, in the name of peace, is not afraid to use violence. With sharp humor and a deep understanding of a child’s mind, How to Turn Into a Bird is a powerful tale of coming of age, loss of innocence, and shifting perspectives that asks us: how far outside of our lives must we go to really see things clearly?
About the Author: María José Ferrada's children's books have been published all over the world. Her first adult novel, How to Order the Universe, has been translated into nine languages. Ferrada has been awarded numerous prizes and is a three-time winner of the Chilean Ministry of Culture Award. How to Turn Into a Bird received the Chilean Art Critics Circle Award. She lives in Santiago, Chile.
Elizabeth Bryer is a translator and writer from Australia. Her translations include Claudia Salazar Jiménez's Americas Prize-winning Blood of the Dawn; Aleksandra Lun's The Palimpsests, for which she was awarded a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant; and José Luis de Juan's Napoleon's Beekeeper. Her debut novel, From Here On, Monsters, was co-winner of the 2020 Norma K. Hemming Award.
"How to Turn into a Bird takes a piercing look at how the human spirit can be nurtured, even set free, by curiosity and compassionate attention—or altogether quashed by fear and judgment. María José Ferrada and translator Elizabeth Bryer have created a vivid, poignant atmosphere, both mournful and tender." - Robin Myers
"With all the brutal simplicity of a fairy tale, María José Ferrada lays bare the blind and violent intolerance that reigns on the precarious outskirts of an unequal society. A deceptively simple tale in a sensitive translation by Elizabeth Bryer—this book is a gift to English-speaking readers." - Megan McDowell
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
HOW TO TURN INTO A BIRD is such an incredible story of the human will to survive in an often bewildering world.
I connected immediately with Ramon and Miguel and the writer does an amazing job with plot and pacing. I was quite anxious about what would happen next.
There's much to admire with the writing here, which is elegant and intelligent. I look forward to more from this author.
Recommended for fans of literary fiction.