When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest WilliamsWhen Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
Published by Macmillan on 4/10/2012
Source: Purchased
Pages: 224
Buy from IndieBound

 
I have been wanting to read When Women Were Birds since hearing about it several months ago and I recently picked up a gorgeous copy of it from my local independent bookstore. It is a difficult book to resist. The paperback copies are slightly bigger than palm-sized with a handmade feel and just beg to be picked up. Last weekend I woke up feeling distant and helpless after getting distressing news from a friend the night before. Alone with my dog at 6:30 am, I picked up When Women Were Birds and barely stopped to breathe until I was finished later that morning.

“It is the province of mothers to preserve the myth that we are unburdened with our own problems. Placed in a circle of immunity, we carry only the crises of those we love. We mask our needs as the needs of others. If ever there was a story without a shadow, it would be this: that we as women exist in direct sunlight only.”

In adherence to Mormon tradition, Terry Tempest Williams’ mother left behind shelves of journals she had been keeping throughout her life. But when she sits down to read them, Williams discovers each page in every journal her mother kept is blank. When Women Were Birds is Williams’ attempt to come to terms with what her mother left behind and discover a voice uniquely her own. 

“When it comes to words, rather than using our own voice, authentic and unpracticed, we steal someone else’s to shield our fear. And in my mother’s case, she let me fill in the blanks. This is my inheritance.” 

Williams’ book is one that will resonate differently with readers for various reasons, as I imagine most will feel the power in her incredible words. Writing a review of such a book is difficult, though I do know this is one I will be coming back to regularly. And much like Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, this pocket-sized companion will be gifted and recommended for years to come. 

  • Ti Reed

    Love this cover.

  • Love this cover.

  • Just wow. It sounds like an amazing book, and I haven’t heard a thing about it. Must find.

  • Just wow. It sounds like an amazing book, and I haven’t heard a thing about it. Must find.

  • I didn’t know about that tradition in the LDS church. Wow!

  • I didn’t know about that tradition in the LDS church. Wow!

  • Me either! It’s pretty incredible.

  • Oh, it’s stunning. This is definitely a physical copy, beautiful little book, too.

  • Me, too. It’s a beaut.

  • I’ve been wanting to read this since I heard about it on the Bookrageous podcast a few months ago. It sounds wonderful! I read and reviewed Williams’ book Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert while I was on vacation in Utah a few weeks ago, and I loved the power of her writing. I need to pick this up next time I’m at the bookstore!

    • I heard about it through Bookrageous, too, and I’m so glad I read it. Now I want to go back through and read her other books because her writing is so gorgeous.

  • I’ve been wanting to read this since I heard about it on the Bookrageous podcast a few months ago. It sounds wonderful! I read and reviewed Williams’ book Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert while I was on vacation in Utah a few weeks ago, and I loved the power of her writing. I need to pick this up next time I’m at the bookstore!

  • I heard about it through Bookrageous, too, and I’m so glad I read it. Now I want to go back through and read her other books because her writing is so gorgeous.

  • This sounds beautiful. And the cover is amazing too!

  • This sounds beautiful. And the cover is amazing too!

  • This sounds poignant and beautiful.

  • This sounds poignant and beautiful.

  • Kelly Massry

    Yes, very intense beautiful writing but I kind of zoned out when she spent a chapter talking about wildlife. That diluted the book for me a bit. And in places I found her too esoteric. But it’s the kind of book you want to just memorize because of how true and real her words are! And judging by the comments, you alerted a lot of people to this book, which is great.
    I haven’t read Tiny Beautiful Things and I’ve been having unnamed anxiety/despondency lately…sounds like an immediate must read.

    • Oh, I think you’d absolutely love Tiny Beautiful Things, especially if you found yourself a little worn down by parts of this book. They fill very similar spaces for me but for totally different reasons, and Tiny Beautiful Things is all the things When Women Were Birds is, just with a different voice. Annnnd, we’ve come full circle :)

  • Yes, very intense beautiful writing but I kind of zoned out when she spent a chapter talking about wildlife. That diluted the book for me a bit. And in places I found her too esoteric. But it’s the kind of book you want to just memorize because of how true and real her words are! And judging by the comments, you alerted a lot of people to this book, which is great.
    I haven’t read Tiny Beautiful Things and I’ve been having unnamed anxiety/despondency lately…sounds like an immediate must read.

  • It’s a stunning read, for sure!

  • Oh, I think you’d absolutely love Tiny Beautiful Things, especially if you found yourself a little worn down by parts of this book. They fill very similar spaces for me but for totally different reasons, and Tiny Beautiful Things is all the things When Women Were Birds is, just with a different voice. Annnnd, we’ve come full circle :)

  • Pingback: Ten Books That Made Me CryRiver City Reading()

  • Pingback: Most Unique Books I've Read()

  • Pingback: Books Worthy of Galentine's Day - River City Reading()