142 Ostriches (Kensington Books)
Set against the unexpected splendor of an ostrich ranch in the California desert, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut conjures an absorbing and compelling heroine in a story of courage, family and forgiveness.
When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything—just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.
Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property, and deeply rooted dysfunction, threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life.
With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother's death, her mother's alcoholism, her uncle's covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.
Praise for 142 Ostriches:
"In Dávila’s vivid, uplifting debut, a free-spirited woman navigates her obligations to a dysfunctional family… The fascinating details of operating an ostrich ranch elevate this family tale…"– Publisher’s Weekly
"Navigating the aftermath of her grandmother’s death is a defining, tumultuous time for Tallulah, which Dávila presents with empathy and insight. How do we make hard choices in the face of uncertainty? What drives behavior, particularly harmful behavior? Readers will be fascinated by the ostriches and the desert, both of which Tallulah believes she wants to escape. Tension mounts in every chapter, and when the difficult forces converge in the satisfying climax, Tallulah discovers clarity. This is an enjoyable, winning, interesting novel for readers of many backgrounds."– Booklist, Starred Review
"An unusual ranching tale set in the Mojave Desert, where the herd is a flock of eight foot tall birds and their wrangler a young woman raised by her gruff grandmother who dreams of another kind of life. A twisty, warmhearted story of family, community and fate, a thoroughgoing delight."– Janet Fitch, Author of Chimes of a Lost Cathedral
"Tolstoy probably never envisioned an unhappy family which included ostriches, but these fine feathered beasts nearly steal the heart of this humane and heartfelt debut novel. Dávila’s protagonist Tallulah must navigate that most fundamental of choices: should I stay or should I go? Anyone who has ever felt the insistent tug of Somewhere Else doing battle with the responsibilities of their Here and Now will find something of themselves in these fine pages."– Mark Sarvas, Author of Memento Park
"142 Ostriches is unlike anything I’ve read before. Wholly unique, this cinematic novel exposes readers to the relatively unknown industry of ostrich farming. In Dávila’s skillful hands, the desert comes alive and the ostriches are as compelling as the human characters. Tallulah herself is a memorable, strong-willed protagonist. Her struggle to negotiate family obligations with her own desires feels both singular and highly relatable. I loved following her through the pages of this fast-paced and lovely novel."– Amy Meyerson, Author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays
"April Dávila has made the rare thing: The perfect meeting of plot and character. A hurtling adventure of family intrigue helmed by a heroine for the ages, Dávila’s novel will make your heart swell as big as an ostrich egg, and then hatch it."– Katie Williams, Author of Tell The Machine Goodnight
"A story told with depth and beauty about the many things we inherit from our families. Dávila’s characters are familiar, yet unforgettable, and I’m waiting patiently for what she writes next."– Wayétu Moore, Author of She Would Be King
"An engrossing and original tale of love, betrayal, and extremely large birds, April Dávila’s 142 Ostriches is a novel that blooms like springtime in the California desert. Fiercely independent, brave, and tender, Tallulah Jones is a heroine for our time."– Seth Greenland, Author of The Hazards of Good Fortune
"Vividly imagined and deeply felt, 142 Ostriches is an utterly absorbing tale of an intrepid young woman coming of age in the California desert. I loved Dávila’s big-hearted debut about land, family, and the ties that bind. Highly recommended."– Lindsey Lee Johnson, Author of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
"Dávila’s observant prose conjures the drama of sun-scorched days and the calm of cool painted evenings as it chronicles the struggles and rewards of a rugged life in the vast Mohave. This is a story that envelops you with a sense of place, and uses its setting to reveal how the human heart, like wildflowers after a rampaging storm, can thrive in the harshest conditions. It is a tale as surprising and delightful as a profusion of florid color in the sandy stretches of the California desert." – Yvonne Puig, Author of A Wife of Nobel Character
"142 Ostriches, April Dávila’s utterly unique novel, nails the Zeitgeist when her protagonist inherits a Death Valley bird ranch she’d hoped to escape. An avian Greek chorus, the birds seem to observe and share her longing to stand in a place of my own choosing. With unsentimental acuity, her narrator confronts the intangible covenant foisted upon her, and the reality that the disposal of her flock, from nature to product, is by no means a matter just for the birds."– Rita Williams, Author of If The Creek Don’t Rise
"I’ve never read a coming of age story quite like Dávila’s. It’s about a rugged existence, but with prose so gorgeously written that you can’t help but see the beauty in the world she’s built."– Erin La Rosa, author of The Big Redhead Book
April Dávila received her undergraduate degree from Scripps College before going on to study writing at USC. She was an Artist in Residence at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in 2017 and attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in 2018. In 2019 her short story “Ultra” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A fourth-generation Californian, she lives in La Cañada Flintridge with her husband and two children. She is a practicing Buddhist, half-hearted gardener, and occasional runner. 142 Ostriches is her first novel.
Amy Meyerson is the bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays, which will be translated into 11 languages. She has been published in numerous literary magazines and teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives in Los Angeles. Her new novel, The Imperfects, will be published in May 2020.