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January 17, 2018

Book Notes - Deborah Reed "The Days When Birds Come Back"

The Days When Birds Come Back

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Deborah Reed's The Days When Birds Come Back is an immersive and beautifully written novel about love and loss.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Reed shines with a light hand and direct storytelling, but her characters are what make this novel move—their vulnerability, imperfect recovery, and endearing loss for words."

In her own words, here is Deborah Reed's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Days When Birds Come Back:

The Days When Birds Come Back is set on the Oregon coast in the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest where I happen to live in a town of less than 600 people. Here, days are guided by tides and storms, sunbreaks and floods, flutters of golden crown kinglets, hungry coyotes, and lately, a bear wandering about town, midday, as she pleases. Evenings might wind down with friends at the local whiskey bar or pub. Most are whiled away in the quiet of home.

My office is a separate structure behind the house, a tiny cabin on a slope, propped at one end by six-foot stilts, and surrounded by a small grove of ancient trees. It is here that I wrote most of this novel, as if from a tree house. I am well aware of my good fortune. I am aware of the strange providences that led me to this beautiful place. And of my tenacity to have arrived here, too. It takes a bit of brawny determination to live with the fierce storms and power outages, the isolation that tends to make one nostalgic for things she may or may not have ever had. Living here feeds a kind of poetic yearning, which is a lifelong baggage of mine, and these are all elements I have woven throughout the characters' lives in The Days When Birds Come Back.

"No Hard Feelings" by The Avett Brothers

I began the novel toward the end of the dissolution of my former marriage, and my life was layered then with unbearable losses. The goal of every day was literally to eat and write and learn how to rebuild my sense of self back into some semblance of a whole. It was an excruciating time for me and for my family. I lived in near isolation, taking daily hikes down the beach for miles while crying out loud. The beach is quite remote with few or no people, and I would put in my ear buds and play this song on high volume repeatedly while singing along and crying. I walked and I wrote, and I practiced no hard feelings. Eventually, everything stuck.

"Sarah Anne" by Anders Osborne

Eventually, I found happiness again, and even remarried. My now husband introduced me to the music of Anders Osborne not long after we met, and I was taken with the sensuality and baseline of this song, and at first I used the name as a placeholder for a main character for the novel, until something else fit, but nothing else ever did, so she remained Sarah Anne, and she is Sarah Anne. The newness of love in the song resembles the passion between Jameson and Sarah Anne in the novel when they are young and falling in love before tragedy strips everything away.

"To Love Somebody" by Karl Blau

Well this is just one of the best songs ever written in my opinion. I have always loved the versions by the Bee Gees, and Janis Joplin, but I love this version by Karl Blau best. There is a wise and wise-cracking tone to Blau's voice that I adore, a serious and tender kind of jokester in the vein of Bill Murray. The ache of this song reminds me of my character Jameson, his grief mixed so deeply with his love for others until the two become indistinguishable.

Lemonade (every song on the album) by Beyonce

My main character, June, struggles mightily to get through a significant amount of pain, not unlike the heroine in nearly every one of the songs on this album. It's a tough road, filled with a mess of trouble, but June manages to bust through, eventually. I listened to this album on repeat for months while writing the novel, and felt empowered and hopeful as a result, which certainly found its way into the novel.

"In A Little While" by U2

The early draft of my novel was actually titled In a Little While, but then Rick Bass published a collection by nearly the same name, so I changed my own to avoid confusion. This is another song brought to my attention by my now husband. The lyrics are closely tied to the novel, and to my own life, and to those closest to me, for whom I deeply care.

"In a little while
Surely you'll be mine

In a little while I'll be there.
In a little while

This hurt will hurt no more

I'll be home, love."

"Frying Pan" by Evan Dando

I've always been a huge fan of Dando's, going back to The Lemonheads. The throwback feel of his vocals in Frying Pan dovetail beautifully with the themes of yearning and nostalgia throughout the novel.

"One laugh in the middle of a struggle. We got mountains, we got beaches, we got love that makes us mad. Love that has to teach us."

"Cover Me Up" by Jason Isbell

I listened to this song more than any other on my iTunes. 172 plays! It's the quintessential drinking and fighting and things falling apart song. The eternal ache to get things right, to be free of addiction, the inevitable screw ups that follow, the determination to get a right once again—it's all here. This is my character, June, bless her big, sweet heart.

"Days when we raged,
We flew off the page,
Such damage was done."

"Feeling Good" by Nina Simone

This classic ultimately became the anthem for me and for my main characters during the writing of this novel. We persevered last time, and we will persevere again.

"It's a new dawn.
It's a new day.
It's a new life.
For me."

Deborah Reed and The Days When Birds Come Back links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

BookPage review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Olivay
Oregonian profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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