by Jim Paul
Here's a book I gave a second chance. I found it at a library sale and immediately picked it up, because I've lived in San Francisco and seen those parrots (cherry-headed conures) in the park. A novel featuring them really intrigued me. Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots is about two individuals fascinated by the parrots: a graduate student struggling to locate wild parrots in the mangrove swamps of Ecuador for research, who unwittingly gets tangled up with some illegal wildlife trafficking, and a self-isolated eccentric poet in San Francisco who doesn't like the parrot his father gave him and ends up releasing it from his apartment window. Eventually feeling guilty at letting the parrot go, he explores the city to find dozens of parrots living on Telegraph Hill, reads up about them in the public library, and finally travels to South America in search of the wild flock they must have originated from. While this book got off to a slow start with me- I was at first put off by the frequent use of the past perfect tense, and felt distanced from the characters- I liked reading the details about the city-living parrots. I knew the two people would end up together- the researcher enthralled with parrots from the beginning and frustrated in her efforts to get close to them, and the reluctant poet gradually drawn out of his isolation by a desire to know more about them. Their two stories wove together in a surprising fashion to the final meeting point. The further I read the more I was drawn into this book, until by the end I had difficulty putting it down.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 305 pages, 2003