One of our recommended books is Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen


From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale of lost souls, lonely strangers, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home. Includes a brand new bonus story of how Mallow Island came to be!

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp,

more …

From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale of lost souls, lonely strangers, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home. Includes a brand new bonus story of how Mallow Island came to be!

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

less …
  • St. Martin's Griffin
  • Paperback
  • September 2023
  • 352 Pages
  • 9781250019875

Buy the Book

$18.00 indies Bookstore

About Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the author of Other BirdsSARAH ADDISON ALLEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden SpellsThe Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the MoonThe Peach KeeperLost LakeFirst Frost, and Other Birds. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina.

Author Website

Praise Best Books of the Year
Washington Post Best Books of the Year

“Whimsical, wise, and delightfully mysterious.” Real Simple

“If you’re looking for a bit of mystery, whimsical characters and a keen sense of place, Other Birds offers all these delights and more. Allen immerses readers in this island world, as well as in the processes of self-discovery, the experiences of being haunted and the gift of surrendering to what we can and cannot control.” Book Page

“The biggest challenge for the reader is to try to not turn the pages so quickly in order to extend the fun. … An outstanding reading experience. Readers who enjoy a Southern story, a touch of the unexplained, and works by Fannie Flagg and Karen White will all be delighted by this novel.” Booklist (starred review)

“A lyrical mystery that embraces letting go and living freely.” Kirkus

“Languid and peaceful, gentle and comforting, Allen’s newest showcases her talent for tender stories of near magic. Her fans will be lining up for this.” Library Journal

“Allen skillfully weaves the various threads, as vignettes narrated by ghosts of former building residents provide further context as the plot unfurls…This will move readers.” Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. After Zoey’s mom died, she grew up in a house that never felt like a home to her. However, she finds a home on Mallow Island. What makes up the idea of home for Zoey? What is your idea of home? Is it a place, or people that make a home?

2. Zoey’s neighbors are a quirky bunch, but they soon become her chosen family. Which character do you most identify with? Is that character also your favorite? Why or why not?

3. In chapter 10, Frasier says “There are birds, and then there are other birds. Maybe they don’t sing. Maybe they don’t fly. Maybe they don’t fit in. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be an other bird than just the same old thing.” Who are the “other birds” in the novel? How did the imagery of the various birds impact your reading of the story? What did you think of the Dellawisps? What do the birds represent?

4. When Zoey leaves home for Mallow Island, it is both an end and a beginning. Think about the following statement: Endings are beginnings and beginnings are endings. Can you think of some examples in the novel where this statement is true? What about in your own life?

5. Zoey and Oliver both leave home at pivotal times of transition and self-exploration in their lives. Discuss the themes of self-discovery and growth and their importance in the novel. What does Zoey’s self-discovery look like? What about Oliver’s? How does their self-discovery and growth affect their relationships with the other characters and each other? How did each character change from the beginning to the end of the novel?

6. How did the chapters from the point of view of the various ghosts affect your reading of the novel? How would the story have been different without these chapters? What do the ghosts represent, both literally and metaphorically, for each of the characters?

7. Food is inextricably linked to the people and places in our lives, and by recreating a memorable meal we can feel reconnected to our past. Mac expresses love through food, as Camille once did for him. For example, he invites Charlotte and Zoey to his restaurant and makes Charlotte breakfast the morning after she stayed overnight. In chapter 18, when Charlotte realizes Mac has feelings for her, she says “This is what being full feels like.” How do you express your love? What role does food play in your life? Who or what does it connect you to?

8. Think about the aspects of magical realism in Other Birds. In chapter 9, Zoey says “Invisible did not always mean imaginary,” and in chapter 22, she says “Not everything has to be real to be true.” How is this evident in the novel? Do you agree? How have you experienced these sentiments in your life?

9. When Charlotte, whose birth name is Pepper, escapes the cult she grew up in, she takes her late friend Charlotte’s name to protect herself, but also to reinvent herself. After her mother exposes this secret, Charlotte thinks about going on the run again in chapter 21, and how “she would have to change her name, her whole identity, again… It was like losing herself all over again.” What does a name mean to Charlotte? Do you agree that a name is tied to an identity? Discuss the importance of name and identity to Roscoe/Frasier and Paloma/Pigeon. What does a name mean to you?

10. Each character in this novel has a complex past that contributes to who they are and where they are in their lives. For example, Charlotte escaped a painful childhood to reinvent herself as an independent artist on Mallow Island. Think about your past. How has it contributed to who you are today?

11. How did you feel after you found out that Pigeon was Paloma’s spirit guarding Zoey? What role does Pigeon play in the story before learning she is Paloma’s spirit? In your opinion, did the revelation change Pigeon’s importance in the story? Why or why not?

12. A lush and vivid setting is integral to Sarah Addison Allen’s novels, and Mallow Island is no different. How real did you find Mallow Island? Is it a place you’d like to visit? Were you surprised by how marshmallows got their name?

13. In chapter 9, Zoey finds four highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow:

History is known for sugar-coating. Sometimes it’s the only thing that can make it palatable.

Second chances are not to be wasted. It is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life.

Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drape over our ghosts so we can see them.

Once I got over the guilt of loving my future more than I loved my past, my old life dropped away and became make-believe, and my present life became my second birth.

Which of these lines most resonates with you? Discuss.

14. Sweet Mallow is a book within a book. Taking into consideration what you learned about Sweet Mallow, what are the similar themes of Sweet Mallow and Other Birds? Did you want to read Sweet Mallow?





Sometimes it feels like I’m almost gone. Weightless.  Floating.  It reminds me of the first time my brother John took me to Wildman Beach.  It was an hour’s walk, and he didn’t want his little sister tagging along and slowing him down.  All my young life I could smell the ocean from our house, which was smack-dab in the center of the island, tempting me like hot pie in an oven.  That, combined with the allure of doing something up until then only John had been allowed to do, made me full of brattiness.  When I pouted, watching John set out on dark summer mornings, my mama used to say, “Use your imagination and you can be there any time you want.”  But I didn’t want to imagine it. I wanted the real thing.  Turns out, the real thing almost killed me.  Mama finally made John take me when I was eight years old. John knew I couldn’t swim, but he still dragged me into the water that first time, saying the only way to learn was to go out as far as possible and make my own way back.  If you really want to come back, he said, you’ll fight it.

I nearly drowned.  John pulled me out and I had no breath and everyone thought I was dead.  But I did want back—to my old dog Goodnuff, to my beat-up baby doll Mosey, and to my mama and her cornbread, which was waiting on the kitchen table, just dry enough to crumble into a glass of milk.  I was a fat baby, so that feeling of weightlessness when I almost died was scary.  I was used to weight keeping me grounded, every step a comforting reverberation of the earth coming through my bare feet.

I don’t mind this weightlessness so much now, not like I did then.  I’m just waiting to finally be let go.  In a way, it’s nice to be remembered, nice that someone in the world still needs me, still needs at least the memory of who I was.  That’s what keeps me here.

My Macbaby keeps me here.

He was the biggest surprise of my life.  Because I never set out to keep any children until he showed up on my doorstep when I was near about eighty.  I never had any of my own and I was okay with that.  I had lots of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, so I’d seen too many births and I’d seen too much baby poop.  When I grew up, all I wanted was to leave that behind.  I liked children okay.  They could be cute and funny as all get-out.  But I didn’t like how they took so much of you.  I knew women who had too many mouths to feed because they couldn’t keep their husbands off of them.  And I knew childless women who faded away to nothing because they thought they were only worth something if they had a baby.  And all these women, they had pieces of them missing.  They’d be walking down the road and I could actually see holes in them where the sun shone through.  I never knew why they seemed so normal, so happy to have all those holes, until Mac.

He found my body after I died, and I wish to God I could have changed that.

I never wanted to put that burden on him.

I’d been cooking cornbread in my kitchen when I just slipped away.  As easy as can be.  I was ready this time.  Mac would come to check on me every few days after he moved out.  He would take me to the grocery store and all my doctors’ appointments.  That day he came in with all the fixings for a millionaire pie I told him I wanted to make for our Sunday dessert.  He found me on the floor, covered in cornmeal like snow.  I was gone, or so I thought, until I heard him cry, cry like I never heard him cry before, and that brought me right back to him, where I’ve been ever since.

One day he’ll be ready to let me go.  Until then, I’m here, weightless but not unhappy, waiting to be released like a wish or a balloon, floating up to that place where hope goes.