The Someday Birds is a raw, funny road trip story that reminds us that even the most literal-minded people can occasionally be sucker-punched by a miracle.
Autistic 12-year-old Charlie struggles to connect with his older sister and younger twin brothers; facial cues never tell him enough to go on. His grandmother is caring for the children while their dad recovers from a traumatic brain injury sustained in Afghanistan. But when their grandmother must travel to Virginia with their father for treatment, the kids organize a cross-country road trip. On this trip, Charlie is inspired to seek out birds he and his dad hoped to see together.
Author Sally Pla puts readers directly inside Charlie’s mind: His inability to understand jokes that rely on wordplay, his tendency to jump and flap his arms when he’s nervous and his need for ritualized hand-washing lose their strangeness as readers recognize his good heart. If Charlie’s siblings roll their eyes at his need to stop and look for birds, they also love him and share in the victories when Charlie steps outside his comfort zone. He bonds easily with animals, for instance, and his low-key demeanor may help Ludmila, their road-trip chaperone, open up about her past and why she was visiting his dad in the hospital.
Moments that border on magic realism and the emotional toll of two different wars would seem to indicate heavy reading, but The Someday Birds leavens things with a three-legged dog who’s along for the ride, as well as Charlie’s Zagat-like reviews of the chicken nuggets at every stop across the United States. Hop in the RV with this ragtag group and enjoy the ride.