Book Review: Songbirds and Stray Dogs by Meagan Lucas

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with a main character in their 20s (advanced) Other PS 2020 reading prompts this w...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with a main character in their 20s (advanced)

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads

TW: Sexual assault, violence, death, abandonment, pregnancy, addiction

When Meagan Lucas reached and requested I review her novel, Songbirds and Stray Dogs, she was remarkably clever and kind in her email. Her novel, while it sounded interesting, didn't sound totally up my alley, but a combination of her charm and the book sounding "interesting enough" convinced me to give it a try. Being entirely honest, I didn't expect much. I don't think the cover is particularly appealing (and I am definitely tend to choose books by their cover), and I've worked directly with authors in the past to really hate their works, which is difficult to manage. But Songbirds and Stray Dogs completely exceeded my expectations.

Jolene was left on her aunt's doorstep when she was eight. Addict mother, unknown father. Jolene fought her to win the love of her extremely Christian, tough-love aunt. At 21, unintentionally pregnant, Jolene loses her boyfriend, her job, and her home. Kicked out with nowhere to go, she leaves town alongside a kind gentleman. Her new town provides a place where she must recognize the kindness of strangers so she can overcome the burdens of her own past. 

Perhaps one of the most important things about this story is the setting. Set in the South in the 1980s, the story almost felt like it was set in the 50s or 60s. Though I wasn't born until 1990, the setting was so familiar. Folks in the South are sweet as pie to your face, but they're also some of the quickest to judge. I felt sorrow for Jolene as she was constantly shunned for her "condition." But I could absolutely imagine the reactions of even today. Religion (specifically Christianity) rules the roost here. There are certainly diverse pockets of people, but there's an obvious majority both in today's South and the South of the setting of this novel.

I loved the interweaving of Jolene's story and of Chuck's. Both tales are beautiful in their own right, but diverged they become something so lovely and heart-wrenching, not to mention dark. The story begins dark - a young woman, pregnant and on the verge of homelessness. But intwined are also stories of haunting pasts, family's ripped apart, addictions, violence, sexual assault.

Every piece of this story was written so thoughtfully, but also in a way that didn't alienate the reader. I really understood and connected with the characters. I felt loss, anger, love.

But I do have two questions - WHAT'S IN THE CASE? Also, why is it called Songbirds and Stray Dogs? I wasn't able to form the connection. There are other questions left unanswered, but not in a way that irks me. There's enough closure for a satisfying end, while also being enough mystery to let the mind wander. Seriously, this story is so good.

"Whatever it is you're running from, you're here now, you're safe. Don't let it catch up to you by dwellin' on it." - Songbirds and Stray Dogs, Meagan Lucas

Again, I was surprised by the beauty of this story, but really enjoyed the mystery and the hauntingly dark components. This book is sad, but overall it's a story of hope and determination. Meagan Lucas is a fantastic new voice in Southern literature, and I'd love to read more from her.

Goodreads rating: ★★★

*I received this book free in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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