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Review: The Parliament

Updated: 5 days ago

4/5 stars


"First it was one girl, then a second joined in. It felt good to scream - little girls were full of so much rage."


This is the whimsical, but grisly, story of Madigan (Mad) Purdy, a chemist who returns to her hometown to teach a chemistry class (making bath bombs) at the library to teenagers. Her childhood friend Farrah, who is the YA librarian, invited her. She's wary of returning to the town because of a traumatic childhood experience that still haunts her - the death of her best friend, Hollis. But things seem to be going ok with the class, until, that is, the library is unexpectedly surrounded by tiny, fist-sized owls... with a taste for blood. And by "surrounded" I mean there are hundreds of thousands, and by "a taste for blood" I mean that when one librarian decides to head home for the day, she is attacked the moment she steps foot out the door, her flesh picked off by a frenzy of birds.


Trapped in the library, its inhabitants struggle to ration their diminishing food, water, medical supplies, and phone battery power. The library's patrons include Mad's class of kids, a couple of librarians (including Mad's friend Farrah), the middle-aged to elderly members of a book club, a mom with her toddler, some college frat boys, and Mad's long-time crush, Hollis's brother Nash. There are a lot of characters to keep straight, and to be honest I don't think I ever actually nailed all of them down in my head. But this confusion just added to the chaotic feeling inside the library. As their world shrinks - when owls break windows and take over some of the rooms, including the bathroom - they take on different roles: Someone to guard the windows, someone to watch the kids, someone to tend to the injured. But they're all just floundering, waiting for a rescue mission by the town, that never comes.


Mad and her kids pass the time by reading her favorite childhood book, The Silent Queen, which has some parallels to their present situation. It too contains monsters out to ruin its characters, and two towns of brave young women and girls who find a way to stand up to them. The Silent Queen chapters are interspersed between the "real" world of murder owls. At first this pulled me out of the main story a bit - this book-within-a-book format - but after a while I came to really enjoy the characters from both storylines, and appreciate the inspiration that Mad and the kids take from the story.


I had a hard time reconciling the town's inability to do anything productive, but then... it sounds funny to say I can't suspend disbelief about a town government's incompetence, but sure, tiny murder owls are fine! Anyway, I liked the balance of hope, and of sincere, sweet connection between library patrons, punctuated by extreme, frenetic violence and despair. Pokwatka is a great writer, and despite her best efforts to rid me of this... I still love owls! :)



 

UP NEXT: Night Wherever We Go, by Tracey Rose Peyton





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