Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

In Wishbones, Virginia Macgregor writes about the immense weight of secret grief and the healing power of love.

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

BOOK REPORT for Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor

Cover Story: Teal Me A Story
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Childhood Diary
Bonus Factors: Loyal Pets, Manorexia
Relationship Status: Support Group Buddies

Cover Story: Teal Me A Story

Ahh, there’s nothing better than a color pun. But is this teal or turquoise? Aqua? I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference; I love them all! So, aside from being my favorite color, the cover also reminded me of The Free, with the little pieces of chain link or wishbone turning into birds and flying away. I don’t have any feelings about that… just thought I’d bring it to your attention. Also, the huge feather is quite pertinent.

The Deal:

Fourteen-year-old Feather (told ya!) lives in the smallest village in England with one of the country’s biggest women: her mom, Josephine Tucker. For her part, Feather couldn’t imagine a more beautiful or loving mother—the fact that her mom weighs more than 500 pounds and never leaves the house just means that Feather always has a parent there when she needs one. But when her mom suddenly falls into a diabetic coma and has to be lifted out of the window by a crane, Feather’s whole world starts to unravel. She begins to realize how sick her mom actually is, how her parents’ relationship might not be as good as she assumed, and how many secrets the entire town has been keeping from her all her life. 

BFF Charm: Big Sister

I missed the part about Feather only being 14, and so spent most of the book feeling cringey-sorry for her, thinking she was acting way too young for her age. Knowing she’s not 17 helps me forgive her blissful optimism and incredible naïveté. Plus, she has been sheltered in her tiny town—from experiences but also from the truth about her family’s past. How could she display awareness if she’s been intentionally kept in the dark?

Despite her immaturity, Feather is sweet and caring. She’s selfless and considerate, and though her methods are flawed (trying to force-fix her mother, not understanding the complexity of her illness), her motivation is pure.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Feather’s best friend is Jake, the only other kid in town her age; they’ve been tight since they were in diapers. They get bussed out of town for school, where Jake chain-dates pretty girls he doesn’t seem to really care about, and Feather just gets by. But back home in Willingdon it’s Jake and Feather against the world. But when a new kid comes from New York to live with his grandfather, bringing with him some secrets of his own, both Feather and Jake find themselves in completely new territory.

Talky Talk: Childhood Diary

I’ve never been a fan of first-person fiction, especially in present-tense (What, like you don’t already know how all of this pans out? Stop teasing me!), but of course sometimes it’s done well and it works. Here, it’s not too bad. Plus the story and its themes were meaningful enough for me to be able to forgive little annoyances. But Feather’s narration did bring me out of the trance on more than one occasion, with her “That’s another thing about so and so” and “There’s another difference between this and that” kind of statements. It felt sort of like I was babysitting a preteen who was telling me lots of facts about her life and every person she’s ever met. It’s not unimportant, but it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, either.

Bonus Factor: Loyal Pets

The Tuckers have an unusual pet that has been with the family longer than Feather has: Houdini the goat. He lives in a kennel in the front yard, which is fenced in. But he still manages to run away at every opportunity (like when Feather forgets to tie him up). In that sense, I guess he’s disloyal. But in the first chapter, he alerts Feather to the fact that something’s wrong with Josephine. Yep, just like Lassie! And he pokes his head in the window to join the fam for Sunday lunch—gets fed little pieces of broccoli and stuff. Aww, what a good boy. How badly do I want a pet baby goat jumping on my couch, you ask? So bad!

Bonus Factor: Manorexia

Obviously this is largely a book about eating disorders and mental health. But it’s not just about overeating and PTSD. Aside from Feather’s mom, there’s another character with an unhealthy relationship toward food. This one battles anorexia and depression; it’s Clay, the young man from NYC who moves to Feather and Jake’s town. Clay isn’t the focus of the story by any means, and—small spoiler—his own story doesn’t get resolved in this book. But his struggle is real and, like Josephine’s, affects the people who love him. Macgregor deftly writes about two extreme responses to grief and guilt, and in doing so demonstrates that mental illness and tragedy do not discriminate on the basis of gender.

Casting Call:

Maisie Smith as Feather

Sebastian Croft as Jake

Dane DeHaan as Clay

Relationship Status: Support Group Buddies

Book, our meetings were a bit heavy, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins, but got neither money nor a baby goat in exchange for this review. Wishbones is available now.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.