Review: Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen

Title: Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this provocative new novel, the author of Root, Petal, Thorn offers a powerful story of resilience, hope, and the secrets that, no matter how deeply hidden, can shape and ultimately unite a family. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it blood? Or is it love?

People respond to tragedy in different ways. Some try to move on. Some don’t move at all. 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.


Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen is a very poignant novel healing and reconciliation.

Emma Hazelton is still deeply grieving the loss of her young son Joey who died from a rare genetic disease a year earlier. Now with her beloved Grandpa Joe’s death, she feels quite lost. She is also struggling with her anger at her husband Noah who has come to terms with his grief and is ready to move forward. When her mom asks her to help sort her through her grandpa’s belongings as she prepares to sell his house, Emma is delighted to discover a wedding portrait of her grand-grandparents. However, the identity of a young woman and little boy in the picture is quite puzzling. When her grandfather’s obituary raises perplexing questions about his past, Emma is determined to find out if these two events are somehow related.  Will learning the truth about her heritage provide Emma with a measure of peace and help her regain the sense of self she lost after baby Joey’s death?

Emma and Noah had no problem pulling together after Joey’s devastating diagnosis. Emma devoted herself to caring for her son until his tragic death and in the aftermath of her loss, she finds herself from pulling away from Noah as she struggles to make sense of who she is. Following her grandfather’s death and her subsequent bewildering discoveries about his past, she is even more adrift. Deciding she needs time away from Noah as she tries to put her life back together, Emma temporarily moves in with her mother and starts making plans for her future. However, she is at a loss when attempting to make a decision about her marriage since she and Noah are at an impasse when it comes to having more children.

As Emma tries to decide what to do about her future, she and her brother Ethan try to find answers to their lingering questions from their childhood. Their parents’ divorce was quite acrimonious and their unusual custody arrangements led to very strained relationships between Emma and their father and Ethan and their mother.  Will their efforts to mend the rift between mother and son be successful?

Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen is a very emotional journey of self-discovery, healing and moving on after following a heartrending loss. The characters are richly developed with both positive and negative traits that are sometimes frustrating but very realistic.  Emma’s search for genealogical information about her family is fascinating and quite educational. A deeply affecting novel that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Contemporary, Ella Joy Olsen, Kensington, Rated B, Where the Sweet Bird Sings, Women's Fiction

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