A story of apples - with a secret hidden at its core [Review]

A story of apples - with a secret hidden at its core [Review]

Content Creator
John Millen used to teach English and French in a secondary school in the UK. He believes telling others about a good book is a brilliant thing to do.
Photo: Simon & Schuster

 

NIGHTBIRD
By Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 147112 421 1

The locals say there is a monster living above the town of Sidwell in the state of Massachusetts. It can only be seen in the dead of night, flying over the rooftops in the light of the moon. People whisper that the monster is part of an age-old fairy tale. But rumours are rumours and stories are stories, and actual sightings of the flying creature are rare, if they are true at all.

Nothing much happens in Sidwell, so tales of the flying creature give the inhabitants something to talk about when they are not talking apples. Sidwell is famous for growing special pink apples, and is surrounded by orchards which provide the town's main source of income. 

Rumours of the winged beast draw as much tourism as the apples during the summer months, and local families use the mythical creature's allure to their advantage. What's the use of having a monster in your town if you don't use it to bring in profit?

The town's women bake delicious pies and cakes using the apples; 12-year-old Twig Fowler's mum is known for making the state's best pies and cider. But holding this accolade is just part of a job for Sophie Fowler. She needs the money that her little cottage industry brings in, not the fame.

Twig and her mother keep themselves to themselves. No one comes to their cottage, and they don't socialise with any of the other townspeople. Twig leads an isolated existence, but she understands why this has to be. The Fowlers have a family secret, and if the townsfolk discovered it, there would be disaster.

At the centre of the Sidwell legend is a curse that has afflicted the Fowler family for more than 200 years. When a new family moves into the abandoned cottage next to the Fowler's farmhouse, Twig finds a dangerous friendship. The risks that she takes reaching out to the two girls who move in next door have far-flung consequences.

Best-selling author Alice Hoffman's fans know her to be an elegant classy writer, and her skills are displayed in this clever mixture of fantasy and reality. 

This summer, Twig's life will change when the red moon rises over the apple orchards. Will Sidwell understand the truth about the creature in the sky?

Nightbird is bewitching tale of secrets, friendships and curses all served up by a top-notch writer. And then there are those apple pies that Twig's mother bakes. Who could resist those?

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A story of apples - with a secret hidden at its core

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