A Thousand Paper Birds

  • by Tor Udall
  • Narrated by Gavin Osborn
  • 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens - an exquisite, strange and beautiful debut for fans of Alice Sebold, Curtis Sittenfeld, Barbara Kingsolver and Audrey Niffenegger.
After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life. Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defences threaten to fall. Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother, and where does she go when the gardens are closed? Harry's purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something - or someone - who will root him more firmly to the earth.
Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.

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What the Critics Say

"A rich and intricate debut, at once subtle and powerful, intent and reflective, lyrical and visceral, expertly cultivating an abundance of life from all that remains after death." (James Hannah, author of The A to Z of You and Me)
"An extraordinary, enchanting book. Writing as fine and precise as a botanical sketch, gorgeously arty themes, powerful yet fragile imagery and a brilliant story - this is a book to love and treasure." (Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Waste Of Time

This book had such unbelievable characters that it was impossible for me to stay interested and engaged. The dialogue and strange behavior exhibited by the characters boggled the mind. The "mystery" wasn't enough to hold my attention. I liked the idea of a story about five lives that intersect over a year at Kew Gardens but the follow through needed much more thought and planning. For me, the writing was so poorly done I was mystified by how this was even published. Juvenile, unlikable and ridiculous. I hate wasting my time on unedited rough drafts.
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- Sara

Not What I Expected, but It Had It's Positive Poin

I can't quite explain why I downloaded this audiobook as it's just not the kind of thing I usually enjoy. Maybe it was the fact that it interweaves the stories of five different characters (a frame to which I'm partial), or maybe it was because it's set mainly in Kew Gardens, a place that I loved visiting. Had I paid more attention to comparisons to Audrey Nifffenegger and Curtis Sittenfield, I probably would have passed on it. Tor Udall's first novel focuses on the interrelated stories of five people, each of them drawn to Kew, and each of them suffering from some kind of loss. There's Jonah, a recently widowed musician/music teacher; Chloe, an emotionally damaged young artist and master of origami; Milly, a little girl who seems to wander aimlessly through Kew with no parents in sight; Harry, an introverted gardener who seems to trust no one; and Audrey, Jonah's wife, whose life has been blighted by a series of miscarriages. Audrey is the link that eventually brings them all together. Initially, I thought the book was relying a lot on flashbacks, but I came to realize that only some of the characters were on "this side"--or, perhaps more rightly, that some of them had not yet let go and passed over.

As stated, this isn't exactly my usual fare, but there were some things to admire. Udall did create empathy for each of the suffering characters, and there are glorious descriptions of Kew through the seasons and the effects of nature--particularly plants--on the human psyche. This line from Amazon's blurb may say it best: "This novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things."

3.5 out of 5 stars.
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- Cariola

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-15-2017
  • Publisher: Audible Studios