US Review of Books

Migratory Birds
by Melda Sherman
Xlibris Press

book review by Gretchen Hansen

“She pressed the diary to her chest as if hugging an old friend.”
Leyla is still reeling from her family’s rapid, unexpected escape to Boston. Everything is so different from her beloved life back home in Turkey. She slowly begins to settle when she meets Madame Renée, another Turk who owns a cozy bakery. The women begin to share their stories. Through her new confidant, Leyla discovers her immigration story has a common thread with many others. Madame Renée gifts Leyla with trunks full of personal effects belonging to her late husband’s French ancestors. The greatest treasure found in them are diaries from Lady Mary Ferguson, who escaped the French Revolution. These memoirs validate her own experience while igniting her passion for stories of people leaving their homelands to come to America. She feels the world needs to hear about the trials and triumphs of these settlers.
Melda Sherman, a writer from the New York Times, is asked to reimagine them into a book. Sherman is captivated by the idea and wants to craft an interwoven, cohesive narrative that demonstrates immigrants’ strength, resilience, and bravery. The resulting book is beautifully written. The characters are dynamic and three-dimensional yet instantly endearing. The author creates visually stunning settings and absorbing scenarios. She weaves the stories of four main families together in a naturally cohesive way and skillfully braids in distinct phrases, songs, and food that bring their cultures to life. Peripheral characters and their stories add texture to the richness of this American experience. Sherman does not shy away from the heart-wrenching circumstances the immigrants face. She focuses on their steadfast faith in the promise of a better life and their indispensable contributions to the country. The narrative is emotionally intelligent, gripping, and inspirational. Readers will likely enjoy this fascinating novel.