Acclaimed author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas Marie-Helene Bertino's Parakeet is a darkly funny and warm-hearted novel about a young woman whose dead grandmother (in the form of a parakeet) warns her not to marry and sends her out to find an estranged loved one.
The week of her wedding, The Bride is visited by a bird she recognizes as her dead grandmother because of the cornflower blue line beneath her eyes, her dubious expression, and the way she asks: What is the Internet?
Her grandmother is a parakeet. She says not to get married. She says: Go and find your brother.
In the days that follow, The Bride's march to the altar becomes a wild and increasingly fragmented, unstable journey that bends toward the surreal and forces her to confront matters long buried.
A novel that does justice to the hectic confusion of becoming a woman today, Parakeet asks and begins to answer the essential questions. How do our memories make, cage, and free us? How do we honor our experiences and still become our strongest, truest selves? Who are we responsible for, what do we owe them, and how do we allow them to change?
Urgent, strange, warm-hearted, and sly, Parakeet is ribboned with joy, fear, and an inextricable thread of real love. It is a startling, unforgettable, life-embracing exploration of self and connection.
About the Author
Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas and the story collection Safe as Houses. She was the 2017 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland. Her work has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Mississippi Review Story Prize, fellowships from MacDowell, Sewannee, and NYC's The Center for Fiction, and has twice been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts.
Formerly the associate editor of One Story and Catapult, she now teaches at NYU, The New School, and Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
"Self-assured, strange, and winning . . . in the bright, prismatic, and fleeting language of the internet age—Bertino traces The Bride’s ping-pong journey in and out of the lives . . . [of] many memorable characters . . . The book’s linguistic pyrotechnics and the shimmering, miragelike nature of Bertino’s images demand a lot of the reader, but the relatability of The Bride’s honest and earnest attempts to do her best with the uncooperative life she has been given resonate on a deep, perhaps even universal, frequency. A vivid book about lives visited by violent strangeness but lived with authentic humor and hope."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Bertino impresses with this dreamlike, sardonic novel . . . Fans of Rivka Galchen will delight in [this] subtly fantastical tale.”
“Marie-Helene Bertino's fiction is miraculous: spry and mordant, with sentences that lull you with their rhythms, then twist suddenly and sting. Parakeet is a strange book in the greatest sense: it sunders reality in sudden transformations and slippages, in the depth of its aches, in the beauty it insists upon in the face of violence, and in the powerful joy that Bertino dowses deep under the surface of even the bleakest moments of her characters' lives.”
—Lauren Groff, author of Florida
“Marie-Helene Bertino is an expert in breaking a heart so cleanly that it releases actual magic. Give up your idea of what a book is allowed to be, and she will show you the whole quivering universe.”
—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
“Marie-Helene Bertino is one of my favorite writers working today, and her latest is one rare gem of a novel. In Bertino’s hands, anything seems possible, from a dead grandmother returning in the form of a bird to finding unexpected wonder in our strange and broken world, profound redemptions of the heart. Parakeet enchants and enthralls.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel