Michele Young-Stone’s second novel, Above Us Only Sky, is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s—with a magical twist. Prudence Eleanor Vilkas was born with wings, “heart-shaped, crinkled like a paper fan” against her newborn back. The doctor apologized; later her wings were removed, leaving only scars. Prudence’s parents divorce. She and her mother move to Florida. She struggles through her teens, wondering about her identity as a winged girl.
Only years later does Prudence discover that she isn’t the first one in her family to be born with wings. “I come from a long line of leggy bird women, women to whom I am allied by blood and birthright. The Old Man knew our history. When we finally met, he told me about the birds.” The Old Man is Prudence’s Lithuanian grandfather, and through him she learns the stories of her ancestors. The story dips even farther into history to the struggle of native Lithuanians, who must fight Cossacks, suffer under the Nazis and endure Stalin’s harsh rule to maintain their sense of cultural identity. They are stories rooted in conflict, survival, family, and the mysterious magic that the winged women of her family seem to carry with them.
Through the Old Man’s stories and the special vision of a boy named Wheaton, the only one who can see her wings, Prudence learns to take her place alongside the remarkable Vilkas women. Young-Stone’s novel is a gripping, heartwarming tale that affirms the strength of family connections despite tragedy, time and separation.