After 15-year-old Leigh Chen Sanders finds that her mother has committed suicide, her world is turned upside down. However, after seeing a huge red bird with her mother’s voice, Leigh is positive that her mother’s spirit is still in this world. Grief-stricken, she decides to travel to Taiwan with her father in hopes of solving the puzzle of her mother’s past and finding the elusive bird. While there, Leigh meets her maternal grandparents for the first time and walks down a twisted, complex path of untold stories and unshared memories. She realizes how little she actually knew about her mother and starts to uncover her mother’s hidden past.
I loved the emotion and color in the story — Pan presents a heart-wrenchingly real perspective on grief and loss. The character development was stunning, and the recurring theme of identity and discovery instilled a hopeful tone into the prose. An undercurrent of magical realism ties the elements together and marks the story as truly extraordinary.