Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen

My review

This story had such a great plot that I was excited enough to leave all work to read this. But alas and very woefully, I have to admit that this book did not hold my attention. It took me 4 days to finish reading. 

I tried to like the main character, Emma, I tried to understand her. I do know that the death of a child is excruciating, and I wouldn’t want this tragedy to befall any woman on this earth. 

A year after her child‘s death, Emma still hasn’t grieved fully, and her process of dealing with the grief and understanding herself takes her away from her marriage to Noah. Both Emma and Noah are carriers for genetic disease Canavan disease, prevalent amongst the Jewish population. And unfortunately, her child, Joey, had the disease and didn’t thrive past his toddler hood. 

Death of a child makes or breaks the relationship/marriage, and that is the basis of this book by Ella Joy Olsen. She has written a mother’s pain seeped in tears and soul breaking agony. Not a single minute passes by when a mother does not feel the loss, not a second bypasses her, when she is tormented by the image of her child and the longing to hold him in her arms, once more. Ella Joy Olsen has painted the picture of such a mother so beautifully that it appears like a canvas of pain amongst the land of living. 

But the story loses its plot down the pages, a book which should have kept me stuck by its side, loses me frequently. 

Emma, a year after the death of her child, has to deal with the death of her beloved grandfather. While sorting through his things, she comes across a photo of her great-grandfather’s marriage where there is a lookalike of Emma. 

Who is that lady? Where did she go? Why is her name absent from all documents? Who is Emma descended from? 

These questions form an excellent premise for the plot, but the story goes all over the place with pages of description, with feelings which appear asynchronous at times, and a narration which does not maintain the interest, the curiosity which the questions demand. 

The identity of the woman in the photo should have been the main story, in fact, it is pushed way down to the last few pages. The main character, Emma, comes across as an escapist, always hiding behind excuses. She is unsure about everything, and I don’t find her dealing with any part of life strongly or with determination. Procrastination seems to be her middle name. And that’s why, probably, I procrastinated reading this book, read 2 in between. She also has some weird ideas of cheating on her husband just to conceive a healthy child. But this can be just me, grief can make people go crazy. 

Some things have to be faced head-on, hating confrontations is no excuse if she is on the path of truth. The rest of the characters prop her up well. The husband, Noah, appeared to be the most sane of them all, and the author has brought about his frustration with her, onto the pages clearly. 

On the whole, a pleasant read with unwanted paragraphs skipped, to get to the finish line. 

I received an ARC from NetGalley and publisher, Kensington and this is my honest and unbiased opinion. 

My rating : 3 stars  

About the Author 

Ella Joy Olsen lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a century old brick bungalow with her husband and three children. She spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library system (and even more years browsing the stacks), and is a member of Tall Poppy Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the best book club ever (SLC Bibliophiles).

Book blurb 

A year after her young son’s death due to a rare genetic disease, Emma Hazelton is still frozen by grief, unable and unwilling to consider her husband Noah’s suggestion that they try to have another child.

As the future Emma once imagined crumbles, her family’s past comes into sharp relief. Searching for the roots of her son’s disease, Emma tries to fit together the pieces in her genealogical puzzle. Hidden within an old wedding photograph of her great-grandparents is an unusual truth Emma never guessed at–a window into all the ways that love can be surprising, generous, and fiercely brave . . . and a discovery that may help her find her own way forward at last.

Product Details 

Publication date : 29th August 2017

Publisher : Kensington 

Language : English

Available on Amazon

 Good family saga with secrets

2 thoughts on “Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen

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