Rufus the great horned owl is the self-declared “worst owl in the history of owldom.” Next to his fledgling sister, First, 6-month-old Rufus feels like a runt. An unsuccessful, can’t-hunt-to-save-his-life runt. When Rufus’ mother is captured by humans while First is away from their nest, Rufus is left alone, afraid and unprotected against the unknown dangers of the night.
Reenie is far from thrilled to go live with her “alleged aunt” Bea, whom she’s never met, while her mother undergoes psychiatric treatment—until she learns that Bea is a falconer. As Bea raises a hawk and begins planning for passage bird season, Reenie is entranced and begins learning all she can about the fascinating sport.
Rufus’ and Reenie’s stories intersect when Rufus—cold, injured and sick—is ensnared in Bea’s live trap. Bea and Reenie take Rufus in to rehabilitate him, but Reenie soon develops an attachment to him that cannot last, because the goal of rehabilitation is to release the animal back in its habitat. Besides, Reenie has learned the hard way that attachments are usually temporary.
Reenie and Rufus narrate Of a Feather in chapters that alternate between their perspectives. The format is a smart choice by author Dayna Lorentz that easily allows readers to see the parallels in their situations. They’re both lost, missing their mothers and seeking the reassurance and validation they need to be able to soar on their own wings. Reenie longs to make friends, but is afraid of the vulnerability that comes with opening up. Rufus is torn between the ease of living with humans and returning to the wild to find both his mother and his higher purpose.
Author Dayna Lorentz is no stranger to writing about animal-human relationships; her previous books include the Dogs of the Drowned City trilogy, written from the perspective of a dog separated from his family in the aftermath of a hurricane. Her deep research into the world of falconry and bird rehabilitation are present on every page as she conveys the exhilarating rush of working with incredible birds of prey. Though readers will pick up quite a bit of information by reading the story itself, significant back matter provides even more fuel for curiosity and discovery.
Of a Feather’s wonderful balance of nature-driven narrative and emotional storytelling will appeal to readers who love the great outdoors as well as those who prefer to stay inside with a good book.