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Margie has always had a soft spot for helpless creatures. Her warm heart breaks, her left ovary twinges, and she is smitten with sympathy. This is how she falls in love with Simon Mellinkoff, her charismatic, obviously troubled Latin professor. As the two embark on an unconventional romance, Simon introduces Margie to his small coterie of animal rights activists, and with this ragtag group she finds her apparent mission in life. But Margie's increasingly reckless and dangerous actions force her to flee her California college town, say goodbye to her fragile dad, and seek shelter on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Here, against a backdrop of endless grass and sky, Margie meets a soap opera-loving grandmother, an intriguing, ink-splattered man, and an inscrutable eleven-year-old girl--and makes unexpected discoveries about her heart.
Suffused with humor and compassion, "The Lovebird" is a radiant novel about one young woman's love of animals, yearning for connection, and search for her place in this world.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-24
- Reviewer: Staff
"Do you have any friends?" Latin professor Simon Mellinkoff asks 18-year-old Margie Fitzgerald in Brown's debut novel, to which Margie knowingly demurs. Describing herself as shy and "Always Alone," Margie has never known her mother who died in childbirth, was not close to her father, and is distanced from her classmates. But she soon falls in love with Simon and Margie begins to follow him in his advocacy for animal rights. When he introduces her to Operation H.E.A.R.T. (Humans Encouraging Animal Rights Today), Margie feels she's finally found a place where she belongs. After an incident which results in the FBI labeling her as a threat, Margie is forced to go into hiding. She is sent to live on the prairies of Montana in a Native American Reservation with the Crow tribe, and she must leave behind the only people she could now call friends. Although Margie's personality comes off as timid and indecisive, Brown is able to get readers empathizing with her during bouts of loneliness as well as caught up in her passion for what she believes is the right thing to do. Agent: Terra Chalberg, Chalberg & Sussman. (June)
Lyrical debut makes familiar characters fresh
The first pages of Natalie Brown’s debut novel might bring a reader to groan, “Not another story about a ninny falling for her college professor!” But The Lovebird proves to be more than the story of an ill-fated romance between a timid co-ed with a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase and a predatory teacher. The affair between the diffident Margie Fitzgerald and her Latin professor fades out almost as quickly as it begins. As a parting gift, however, he makes her the head of the fanatical animal rights group he founded and is now washing his hands of.
Feeling useful and included at last, Margie does something stupid and spectacular enough for her to be wanted by the FBI. With the help of one of her animal activist friends, she flees to a Crow reservation in Montana. Specifically, she’s deposited, like one of the stray bunnies she likes to save, at the home of a wise and elderly Crow woman and her family. Yes, yes, haven’t we had enough of authors bringing out old, patient, sagacious Native American women—to the point where we may secretly long for a matriarch who’s mean, irresponsible, potty-mouthed and can’t tell one herb or root from another? But that’s for another novel.
Besides, Brown’s skill pulls us into Granma’s warm, nurturing orbit in spite of ourselves. One reason we love her is the goodness she’s passed on to her son Jim, a chap who’s manly enough to rebuild a car engine and sensitive enough to cry when he shoots a buffalo. Another reason we love Granma is that she’s such a refreshing contrast to the watery Margie. Motherless, raised by a loving but sad and ineffectual father, Margie has been blown hither and yon all of her life like so much of the fluff that blows from the Montana cottonwoods. The rootedness of Granma and her family is what she deeply needs.
Skating so close to cliché and stereotype, then subverting them a little; making you feel for and believe in her characters and care about what happens to them—these are signs of real talent. Natalie Brown is a real talent.