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Not the Best Monroe Book I Have Read

Skyward - Mary Alice Monroe

Honestly this one didn't work when you focused on the adult characters. There was also a wise old black man helping out the white people around him and that didn't sit that well with me either. I think the biggest issue is that Harris was selfish about everything and Ella should have stayed professional. The characters of Elijah, Brady, and Clarice are the only parts of the book I enjoyed reading about. Monroe backed off on incorporating Brady into more of the story and I wish she had. Clarice and Brady's friendship ended up feeling unfinished too. 


"Skyward" is about Harris Henderson (that name) who runs a bird sanctuary in the Lowcountry in South Carolina. He devotes mos of his energy to the sanctuary while trying to parent his 5 year old daughter Marion. When Marion falls ill and is diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Harris realizes she needs to hire a caregiver for his daughter to ensure she gets her insulin shots. He ends up hiring Ella Majors who after being a long time pediatric nurse in Vermont is ready to do something new.

I didn't like Harris. I get that he was doing a great job, but after hiring Ella he pretty much demands a lot of things of her that I thought were unfair. And he also forbid her from talking about Marion's mother Fannie. That ended up becoming moot though when Fannie returns wanting to make her and Harris's marriage work. Oh did I not mention that Harris is married and starts up a romance with Ella? Yeah, that happened. I maybe mumbled how very Jane Eyre of him especially with the ending too. I guess for me I didn't see what was so great about Harris. He lives only a couple hundred feet from the bird sanctuary but asks like he has so much to do he can't spare any time for his daughter. When they end up losing a nurse for some time due to a family emergency he asks Ella to step in and she's of course (rightfully) says she's there to take care of Marion, not birds. But of course she ends up doing it because Ella has zero backbone.

Onto Ella. Eh. Monroe wrote her as pretty pathetic in my mind. Ella goes on about knowing she's not pretty and she on her 35th birthday resigned herself to being alone forever, with no husband and children and pretty much acted as if there was nothing more to her life.


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Ella instantly finds herself attracted to Harris though she's there to actually work. Most of the book is her blushing anytime Harris does something nice and she runs around beating herself up for thinking about Harris romantically. I felt skeeved out about the whole working for the guy and then her getting talked into also working at a bird sanctuary. I seriously felt for Marion because the whole book is pretty much her father and her caregiver making her second or third to birds.


The other adult characters in the story were pretty boring except for Elijah. We get Harris's estranged wife back in the mix and Monroe had the chance to turn the book into something else but then swerved and did what I call a romance clean-up.

Monroe has written about the Gullah's that live in South Carolina in her other books before. This time it bugged me though because Elijah is just used to give out wisdom to characters like Harris and Brady. We hear his backstory via Clarice and I wish that we actually had him deciding to tell his story to someone to make him more developed.


Brady was a hard luck character who was doing what he could to keep his family together and not get his father in trouble. I liked the character and wondered why Monroe didn't write a sequel to Skyward that would feature him. I liked the idea of him and Clarice being friends. I did feel bad though that Monroe had Clarice arguing nothing could happen between them and it was implied it was because he was white and she was black. This book was published in 2003 though so I went back and forth about that being an issue in this time and place. 


The writing was just okay. I am used to Monroe making me feel as if I am in the book due to how she writes. This time I wasn't feeling it. I was interested in the research she obviously did about raptors (eagles, falcons, etc.). And she also includes little bits about them before each chapter heading. I also got a kick out of the rooster in this story. Yes, I was more invested in the animals than the actual plot.

The flow was off through the whole book though. There just seemed to be a lot of things left unsaid and we jump around a lot from Harris, Ella, and then Brady in certain sections. I don't know if the book had been tighter just focusing on Harris and Ella. However, I loved the parts with Brady. 


The setting of the Lowcountry always seems magical in most of Monroe's books. This time it didn't feel that way to me as I finished this.

The ending was...just think of Jane Eyre. I didn't even know what to say about it.