Book #23

The Bird that Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life—and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life, which prompts her own journey to live authentically.

This is a gorgeous tale of the bonds of family, coming of age, grief, and the simple pleasures and woes life brings. Mattioli has created a realistic, raw, and heartbreaking account of the ways in which we relate to others, question our decisions, and value our treasures.

We begin in the 70s with our protagonist, Donna, in her mid-teens. We meet her family, then we live and grow with Donna throughout her life until the present day. Births, deaths, revelations; all are laid out in front of us to allow us to examine these lives, and wonder how we all ended up here.

It’s wonderfully written, incredibly engaging, and just what I love reading - a voyeuristic account into the lives of a family who are close-knit, yet problematic, loving, yet fraying. I tend to read these types of novels and wonder what I would do differently in the situations presented to me, but here Mattioli is teaching me that sometimes life just happens, and that’s okay.

Essentially, she’s commenting on happiness - where this comes from, how it differs for each person, how we may think we’ll be happy when we achieve something we want, how we think others will be happy if they have the same things we do. Feeling fulfilled is a difficult measurement, and we can see clearly here from Donna and her family that happiness isn’t something that comes purely from hard work.

I really enjoyed this, mainly for the message I was being sent, but also for the sheer amount of heart which has been instilled into the pages. You just can’t ever measure someone’s happiness using your own stick.