Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Winging It

Summary: A hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation -- feather by feather.

Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African gray parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood.

A gift from Scott's brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed-off, and missing a lot of her feathers -- definitely not the Polly-wants-a-cracker type the Gardiners anticipated. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle their feathers. The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you -- literally -- never applied to Graycie.

But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. In this laugh-out-loud funny and touching memoir, Jenny vividly shares the many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to the multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh. Graycie is a court jester, a karaoke partner, an unusual audio record of their family history, and, at times, a nemesis. But most of all, she has taught the family volumes about tolerance, going with the flow, and realizing that you can no sooner make your child fit into a mold than you can turn a wild parrot into a docile house pet. Winging It is an utterly engrossing reminder of the importance of patience, loyalty, and humor when it comes to dealing with even the most unpleasant members of the family. -- Gallery Books

I have to disclose that I am a really big fan of Jenny Gardiner. I've been following her since she was a contributor to the Debutante Ball, and I love reading her hilarious (and need I say insightful?) tweets. I thought her first novel SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER (my review) was a terrific, and I've been anxiously awaiting her next book for what seems like a long time. So I am happy to say that WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL ME is now available, and it was well worth the wait!

For those of you who don't know Jenny Gardiner, she is a very funny woman. Her wit is sharp and quick, and I just knew a memoir about her spunky parrot would be full of laughs. And I have to say that WINGING IT was full of many cute (and some not-so-cute) stories about a wild animal. I did find myself laughing a lot at Graycie the parrot, although I think often times I was laughing more at Jenny and her reactions than the parrot.

I admit when I started this book I thought to myself how is the author going to be able to pull off a 250 page book about the antics of a parrot. Not that Graycie doesn't provide fabulous material for her owner, but I wasn't sure I wanted to read that much about a bird (I'm not a huge bird lover and I think I would be terrified to ever meet Graycie.) Although I admit that every once in awhile, I would just giggle over something Graycie would say or do; and I'd think to myself that she wasn't that bad. As a mom, I could kind of relate to Jenny and her relationship with Graycie. Sometimes, you just want to kill your kids (well, not really kill but you get my drift) and then they say or do the sweetest thing and all is forgotten!

As I read about Graycie and her behavior, I was absolutely amazed that the Gardiner family stuck with her. And it wasn't just Graycie, but the Gardiner family did have some interesting luck when it came to their other animals whether it be bad behavior or unique illnesses. I honestly can't say that my family would have been as dedicated and devoted to our pets, especially a bird who enjoyed taking bites out of people's bodies. And that's one of the things that I loved about this story -- seeing how loyal and committed the entire Gardiner family was to each other and their pets. Talk about a heartwarming story!

I was pleasantly surprised by WINGING IT, not because I didn't think it would be a cute story about a misbehaving parrot, but because it was so much more than that. I knew it would be funny and I was expecting it to be touching, but I was truly impressed with how insightful this book was about family life. Whether you understand the Gardiner family's devotion to Graycie or not, you have to respect that Graycie is an integral part of their family and they are as loyal to her as they would be anyone else.

I also found this book to be somewhat motivational, and I certainly wasn't expecting that when I picked it up. Jenny Gardiner is a successful mother, wife, and writer who totally seems to have it together; and I found that so admirable. Despite what "bad" things happen to her (from finding her house covered in bird poop, to losing a pet, to having a child with a serious illness), she deals with everything with a sense of humor. I am so incredibly envious of her and her ability to keep her entire life in perspective.

Check out the book trailer where Jenny Gardiner dishes on Graycie:



I highly recommend WINGING IT to pet lovers as well as anyone who appreciates a good story about family dynamics. It is a very funny, yet very touching book, about the love and perseverance of a close-knit family. Make sure you come back tomorrow because Jenny will be stopping by to answer a few of my questions!

Thanks to the author and publisher for sending me a copy of WINGING IT!

Since Jenny is a Penn Stater (and so am I), this review counts as part of my Back-to-School Feature. Make sure you check out all of posts I have written about fellow Penn State writers, and feel free to add your links about any posts related to your favorite school. In fact, if you feature a book related to any school that you attended, root for or even live near, it can count -- it's all about school spirit.

15 comments:

Sandra said...

This sounds like a fun read.I'll check my library for it. Thanks for reviewing it.

bermudaonion said...

I think that book sounds fantastic! I'm an animal lover, but I'm not sure I'd stick with Graycie either! I'm looking forward to tomorrow's interview!

katsrus said...

This book sounds so good. I cannot wait to read it. Thanks for the review.
Sue B

Jenny Gardiner said...

hi Julie! Thank you SO much for your wonderful review! I really appreciate your super kind words! (and trust me I definitely do not have it together. As I came downstairs this morning and surveyed the disaster that is my home, I just shook my head, shrugged, and went straight to the computer. It was that or clean, and THAT wasn't gonna happen LOL)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds very good. Gray parrots are apparently pretty amazing. I read the book about Alex the Parrot so this sounds like a good follow-up.

Jenny Gardiner said...

I like to joke that Alex would have been the kid in school sitting in the front row, raising his hand to answer every question the teacher poses, while Graycie would be the one sneaking out to smoke cigarettes in the bathroom LOL

Tribute Books said...

This book sounds like a fun read. Thanks,for the review.

April said...

This sounds wonderful!!! A new author and book to me - but ones I am sure to check out now! Excellent review, Julie!!

Jenny Gardiner said...

thanks for stopping by to check it out! BTW, Julie, I will have a good announcement some time soon re: next novel... ;-)

K. Harrington said...

I had the great pleasure of meeting Jenny earlier this year and her humor is infectious! I'm looking forward to reading her book and wish her much continued success.

Jenny Gardiner said...

thank you Karen and thanks for coming by!

Beth F said...

What fun! My dissertation adviser here at Penn State had a parrot who lived at least 40 years (maybe more). They had a huge cage for her and rarely let her roam the house. I'll have to recommend the book to them.

Jenny Gardiner said...

you're at Penn State? that's where I went! (and my daughter might too--she got into Schreyer Honors college)

S. Krishna said...

I have to admit, I'm not much of a pet lover, but I am a huge fan of Jenny so I definitely will be reading this one. After you review, I'm really looking forward to it!

Jenny Gardiner said...

thanks Swapna!