Monday, May 5, 2014
MMGM: Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin
ABOUT THE BOOK
A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia
Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or "Little John" as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.
There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.
But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nikki Loftin is the author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publishers Weekly called "mesmerizing," and Kirkus called "irresistible," and Nightingale's Nest, which received a starred review from Kirkus. She lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, goats, and small, loud boys.
Nikki is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin graduate writing program (MA, '98). She has been a popcorn seller, waitress, bookstore employee, Music and Gifted/Talented teacher, and a Director of Family Ministries.
Nikki teaches Zumba dance/aerobics in a mostly vain attempt to combat the ever-threatening Writer's Butt. When under extreme stress, or on submission with a novel, she bakes obsessively as a coping technique. Her favorite food/obsession is ice cream, preferably Blue Bell Moo-llenium Crunch. On very good days, she prefers writing even to ice cream.
Nikki is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary Agency.
Nightingale's Nest is one of those books that knocks you off your feet and leaves you wondering what on earth happened. I found myself cheering for Little John from the first page as he and his family struggle with poverty. When Little John befriends the lonely and abused Gayle I smiled, when John messes up and ends up getting Gayle hurt, I flinched. And I flinched more when he messes up again trying to fix the first mess. Little John and Gayle are both very sympathetic characters with plenty of heartache between them. The characters truly are the power behind this very thoughtful and heart-wrenching novel.
But the setting also provides important conflict in the story. If Gayle hadn't been staying next door to Mr. King's house where Little John and his father were working, a lot of what happens in the story, wouldn't happen. And the tree that Gayle makes her own also plays a key role in the story and in the dynamics of Little John's and Gayle's relationship.
The plot is remarkable intense considering the story is so character-driven. I had a really hard time putting the book down because I was so invested in seeing what would happen to Little John and Gayle. While the ending is rather bittersweet, it was a fitting end to the story. Like real life not everything turns out the way one might want, but things turn out as well as they can under the circumstances.
I would recommend this novel highly to those readers ready for the emotionally intense nature of the story. Both Little John and Gayle have to face some really tough things and not all young readers will be ready for that, but those who are will undoubtedly get a lot from the story.