The Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin has been called a powerful retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, but calling it that doesn’t do it justice. First off, it isn’t exactly a fairy tale and second, it isn’t a retelling of the Andersen classic. The two stories have very little in common other than a nightingale and what happens when the nightingale sings—people are cured and forgiven. So the Nightingale’s Nest would be better described as a powerful story inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen classic. That being said, it is wonderful. Let it inspire you.
The Nightingale’s Nest is powerful, compelling and haunting. With many references to grief and child abuse it will stay with you long after you have finished it. But these subjects are handled in such a clever way, neither adults or younger readers will not find them overwhelming.
The story is told from the point of view of Little John a twelve- year old boy whose little sister has died. We get an inside view of how different people process grief. Little John thinks everything is his fault. His Mother has lost touch with reality. She thinks her daughter is still alive. His Father is a drunk, depressed and hard on his son. Then Little John meets Gayle, a foster child processing grief of her own. Her parents she says have flown away. She shows signs of physical abuse and is mentally fragile. She has built a nest to await her parents’ return. But when she sings, she cures things. Is it magic? Maybe. Little John promises to protect her but lets her down. Lured by the promise of money he takes her to an old man who says he wants to record her singing but we soon believe other horrible things happen. She loses her voice, When Little John realizes what he has done, he tries to make it up to Gayle but everything goes wrong. Eventually, he gets it right and Gayle forgives him and the old man. She then disappears. We never know if she really was a bird and flew away or was a girl. We don’t know if the magic was real either but either way, Little John is transformed. I suspect you will be too.
This is such a fine example of magical realism, it is a must read.