On the Way to Birdland, by Frank Morelli

samanthajoysbooks's review

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This book was very impactful. Wonderful writing and wonderful characters. There were elements I wasn’t expecting and I loved how as you read it you got to know so many people with different struggles and backgrounds. Great book!

spinesinaline's review

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hopeful reflective medium-paced


Thanks to the author for an e-ARC!

There’s a whole cast of unusual and (mostly) helpful characters that Cordy meets along the way too, folks who whether they intend to or not help him along his physical and internal journey as he tries to gain a better understanding of his family and his own place in the world.

While it’s a fun story about a teenager traveling cross-country on his quest, it’s not without heavier topics. This is an underage teenager who’s set out on the journey without informing his family so he faces many dangers on the road, has to grapple with past trauma, and learns from others he meets on the road about the struggles they’ve faced and are currently facing.

I really enjoyed the adventurous tone of the story, and if you love jazz music, John Coltrane in particular, and American geography, there’s lots to get lost in as Cordy travels up the country towards Birdland.

While I liked most of the characters, I felt I needed to read Cordy through a bit of an unreliable narrator lens, especially with how naive he is vs how suave and intelligent he thinks of himself as. He’s on the run and there’s a missing person report out for him, yet he introduces himself to every stranger on the road with his full name and hometown! What are you doing, Cordy?

I was also uncomfortable with Cordy’s seeming idolization of such historical figures as the Founding Fathers. At one point in the book, he considers how they would’ve considered the present world and its treatment of, among others, a Black man, in terms of the rights they originally set out for the country. I would’ve preferred more nuance in this discussion, especially as many of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners.

There’s also one character who we’re made to hate and unfortunately their meanness and ‘evilness’ is presented through fatphobic statements. Their weight and eating habits are constantly brought up in every passage they’re mentioned in as a reflection of their character. There are a lot of other ways to depict an evil character than to conflate fat with bad.

I was impressed with the ending. I did start to guess where it was going but it was a natural progression that still felt unexpected. Though I do wish we’d had more time to settle in with an expanded ending, as it felt rather abrupt after how long the whole journey had been stretched out.

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floralcars's review

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emotional reflective slow-paced


 § I received an ARC of this book from the author to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

Cordy lives in a small southern town and has never left it before. However, when bad news hits home, he decides to leave his turtle shell and embark on a risky journey through the States. The goal? To find his runaway brother, and bring him back home so that the family is once more reunited before it is too late. 
The book shows us each of Cordy's steps of his journey, and how he learns about new things, new people and their views on life. Those companions fall into certain tropes - i.e. the gentle giant - but stray away from being stereotypical.

One of the most important aspects in this book is never forgotten: Cordy's love for Jazz music. It lingers in every page, and the fact that it stems from the author's interest does not come as a surprise. You can feel it while reading. I enjoy this aspect a lot, even though, I do not know anything about Jazz music. 
Sadly, there is a drawback: Despite the well-written characters and their stories, the book never sucked me in. It lacked that little catch that would usually get me hooked. As a result, it took me a long time to finish "On The Way To Birdland". 

Nevertheless, the overall experience was a pleasant and enjoyable one. The result of Morelli's work is a great story that shines a light on family bonds, and coping with trauma. 

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