My very favorite city is Charleston, South Carolina, and it's hard to find a bad book written about the Low Country. Skyward by Mary Alice Monroe is no exception.
Skyward takes place at the Coastal Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, owned and operated by Harris Henderson. Monroe provides us with much interesting information about the many birds treated at the center including eagles, hawks, ospreys, vultures, falcons and owls. But birds aren't the only injured creatures that inhabit the center. Harris suffers from an unhappy childhood, a failed marriage and the recently diagnosed disease of his five year old daughter. Daughter Marion has been wounded by her diabetes and her runaway mom. Nurse Ella Majors flees her native Vermont after seeing one too many children die at the hands of neglectful parents. She takes a job as Marion's fulltime nanny. Brady Simmons is a 16 year old with an abusive father. He's doing community service at the center because he shot an eagle. And Lijah, and elderly Gullah gentleman, has lost his wife and two young sons. He serves as the wise sage who mentors this odd bunch. Somehow, in learning to treat and heal the birds, these wounded souls also learn how to heal themselves and each other. They also discover that the techniques that lead to success in working with the raptors can also help in their interpersonal relationships.
Although I liked the storyline and what happened with the characters, I think that the birds made the book. They each had their own personality and although wild, each staff member had their favorite. Even though Harris doesn't believe in naming wild creatures, the staff was pretty clever at finding the proper name for the right bird. So Santee, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Buh Rooster, Cinnamon, etc. were just as much a part of the story as the human characters.
Monroe also provides an interesting look at the birds including their personalities, their histories, what brings them to the center, how they're treated, and efforts to release them back into the wild. Not all efforts are successful, and the Tweedles (two vultures) never did want to leave the nest. One story I had never heard involved the battlefield of Gettysburg. One day after the battle, vultures started arriving to pick apart the remains of the many dead horses. More arrived every day, and they never migrated for the winter, having enough food to see them through. Even today, over 900 black and turkey vultures return each year to the battlefield.
Finding Mary Alice Monroe has been like finding treasure, and I can't wait to read more of her Low Country tales.