The Birds Came Back

The Return of the Honey Buzzard by Aimée de Jongh. SelfMadeHero, 2016. (c) 2014. Translated from Dutch by Michele Hutchison.  9781910593165.

honey-buzzrdSimon’s bookstore is going out of business. He’s kept it going as long as he could, as he promised his father. His wife Laura wants him to sell it — if he does they can even keep their jobs there — but Simon considers it a matter of family honor not to.

On the way back from retrieving books outside of town, Simon witnesses a woman’s suicide by train. His guilt over being unable to intervene brings back feelings about what happened to his best friend Ralf, who was bullied when they were kids. Remembering his childhood brings back his forgotten dream of becoming an ornithologist. Simon is in a terrible place.

But then he saves a young woman from being run over, and the two start a friendship/low level affair. More than anything she gives him a chance to talk about his past and his feelings, and to work out (with the help of a honey buzzard metaphor) that maybe he shouldn’t feel bad and that starting over could be exactly what he needs.

How could I not pick up a graphic novel about a struggling bookstore?  My continuing low-level career angst/mid-life crisis made this a great read.

The bullying aspect of Ralph’s story made me think of Max De Radigues’s Moose, in which a young boy has to decide how to respond when his bully is in trouble. The beautifully drawn birds reminded me of the art in Guy Colwell’s In Fox’s Forest.

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