What begins as a sweet tale about a little girl becomes something akin to Edgar Allen Poe or the movie Signs. When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey is a brilliantly written novel, and even up to the ninth hour you are still not sure if Leah is who she claims.
Tom and Ellen Norcrosse and their daughter, Leah, move from the city to a small town to save their family. Tom is a counselor who has gone part time to save his marriage. This small town is tightly knit and because Leah has a bad stutter most town folk are having a hard time connecting with the Norcrosse family. Tom and Ellen arrange for a big town party to draw their reclusive daughter out of her shell. Leah has also begun talking about ‘The Rainbow Man.”
“The Rainbow Man” concerns Tom. Tom is an atheist. Ellen rubs a crystal around her neck and holds to a New Agey belief. The invisible friend causes Tom to struggle with how to deal with his daughter’s imagination. Leah makes a new friend named, Allie, at the party. They become inseparable for most of the novel. Allie is not completely convinced The Rainbow Man is real either. What makes this novel unique is how deftly Coffey uses a writers technique called, “The Tornado Effect.”
The Tornado Effect is how each person views the same thing in a different way. Reggie, the pastor, see’s Leah’s reaction out of context and in a different way than some of the other townfolk. His perspective helps increase the tension in the story. From his perspective, Leah is conniving. Barny takes care of his Dementia and stroke-ridden wife who is wheel chair bound. From his perspective, Leah is the ticket out of his bad luck. Barny’s story takes center stage here.
Leah suddenly becomes a great painter after Barny makes her a beautiful, hand-carved easel and the painting reveals numbers in it. Leah says The Rainbow Man wants Barny to have the painting and asked her to paint that scene. Barny sees the numbers, plays the lottery, and wins. This makes Leah and Barny instant celebrities and Barny’s toy shop sees more customers than in years past. Reggie is suspicious. People claim The Rainbow Man is God, but it’s such a strange thing to have God speak through an unbeliever and to be called such a name.
The tension in the town mounts as Leah paints another scene and Barny hangs it on his window. There are numbers in this painting, too. Scores of people write or take pictures of the numbers and run out to buy a lottery ticket. Reggie says God can’t use the lottery and he is right to worry how the town will react when the numbers don’t win.
The chapter where Coffey takes an omniscient point of view is a very tense chapter. We see every character as they wait until midnight. Meanwhile, the mockingbirds are gathering in numbers, giving an almost Poe feel to the story. The story is getting darker as the town gets angrier and things go wrong. When Mockingbird Sings is a story that makes you wonder if you would have thrown the proverbial stone, too. The novel explores Christianity and self-responsibility through the eyes of the town folk.
When Mockingbirds Sing is such a different novel that writers ought to read it to study Coffey’s methods. It’s dark, but it doesn’t begin or end dark. It’s like a storm slowly building until suddenly it breaks and everything hidden comes out. It’s supernatural. I gave it five stars. What a wonderful and tense read!
*Book given by publisher to review.