Nonfiction Review – The Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki Moustaki

November 6, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Non-Fiction, Read in 2014 2 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nonfiction Review – The Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki MoustakiThe Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki Moustaki
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on February 10th 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-half-stars

An avian expert and poet shares a true story of beloved birds, a remarkable grandfather, a bad-girl youth—and an astonishing redemption

Nikki Moustaki, author of The Bird Market of Paris, grew up in 1980s Miami, the only child of parents who worked, played, and traveled for luxury sports car dealerships. At home, her doting grandmother cooked for and fed her, but it was her grandfather—an evening-gown designer, riveting storyteller, and bird expert—who was her mentor and dearest companion.

Like her grandfather, Nikki fell hard for birds. "Birds filled my childhood," she writes, "as blue filled the sky." Her grandfather showed her how to hypnotize chickens, sneak up on pigeons, and handle baby birds. He gave her a white dove to release for luck on each birthday. And he urged her to, someday, visit the bird market of Paris.

But by the time Nikki graduated from college and moved to New York City, she was succumbing to alcohol and increasingly unable to care for her flock. When her grandfather died, guilt-ridden Nikki drank even more. In a last-ditch effort to honor her grandfather, she flew to France hoping to visit the bird market of Paris to release a white dove. Instead, something astonishing happened there that saved Nikki’s life.

​’Birds had filled my world the way blue filled sky, with a wholeness so natural that an existence without them seemed a perverse impossibility.’​

The Bird Market of Paris is a memoir detailing the author’s experience growing up in the 1980’s in Miami, Florida. Her parents traveled frequently for business so Nikki spent the majority of her time being raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather, whom she called Poppy, became a close companion to her at an early age and was the one that shared his lifelong accumulation of bird knowledge with her. He taught her how to properly care for them, how to identify them and most importantly how to appreciate them and love them. He also told her the most vibrant stories of his travels across the globe, but the one story that stood out most for her was his descriptions of the Bird Markets in Paris and she vowed to go there someday to experience it firsthand.

I adored the small stories within these pages. The story of how her Poppy would get her a dove every birthday and that they would release it thus ensuring another year of peace until the next birthday dove. The story of how Nikki obtained Bonk, a baby lovebird that caused her desire to care for all the featured creatures to grow. This part of the tale reminded me greatly of a favorite memoir of mine, Wesley the Owl, which details the tremendous bond that develops between bird and human. Other stories weren’t quite as ebullient though. The story of the devastating hurricane that ravaged her house causing her an all-consuming guilt over the deaths of many of her birds that never quite dissipated. And when she lost her grandfather and her alcoholism quickly earned the upper-hand. The stories themselves were compelling enough but it was the authors’ skillful writing that truly captivated me.

The Bird Market of Paris is an incredibly poignant memoir that explores Moustaki’s deep adoration for her grandfather, for birds and her unfortunate decline into alcoholism. The ravaging effects it had on her were thoughtful, raw and brutally depicted. Nikki Moustaki’s story is an intensely affecting and emotional tale that is quite unforgettable.

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