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Henry Jett’s life is slowly going nowhere. His girlfriend recently left, and his job in a local garage is uninspiring, considering that he doesn’t particularly like cars. Henry finds solace in his eccentric passion, rebuilding the skeletons of birds and animals. Meanwhile Henry’s brother, Dan, is disappearing into an obsession of his own. Henry’s loneliness and passivity is thrown into relief when Dan’s preoccupation with running farther and faster—as if he could outrun his mortality—casts him out of Henry’s life entirely. Without Dan to rely on, Henry begins to engage in new ways with the people around him in his Prairie city: the 80-year-old Russian émigré who delights in telling stories; the very pregnant former employee of his mother’s; the lawyer who may or may not be his brother’s ex-girlfriend. Gradually they demand that Henry become a participant in his own story and forge his own way of living in the world. In The Afterlife of Birds, award-winning poet Elizabeth Philips draws together unforgettable characters who subtly, powerfully demonstrate the beauty of ordinary lives and of finding our place in the world.
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