“When Mockingbirds Sing” – Book review

This novel by Billy Coffey intrigued me. The story inside When Mockingbirds Sing is about a 9-year-old named Leah Norcross who moves with her parents to the close-knit, small town of Mattingly.


Outsiders are not welcome in Mattingly. Particularly not outsiders who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.”

Even the Reverend in the town doesn’t know what to do with the Norcross family when they say, “We ask the same questions religious people ask; it’s just that you believe there are answers to those questions and we don’t.”

But the story moves along, centering around Leah’s strange relationship with her invisible friend, the Rainbow Man. Author Billy Coffey is careful not to show his hand early about this friend. Real or pretend?

Leah is inspired by the Rainbow Man to paint a mysterious picture (far above her normal abilities) to give to the town’s toymaker as a favor he desperately needs.

Coffey keeps events moving swiftly, making it easy to keep reading one more chapter, one more chapter. But even at the halfway point, I still wasn’t sure where he was going with the religious angle. Were we the readers supposed to be with the girl or against her?

I admit that I liked we didn’t know. It wasn’t predictably Christian. Coffey leaves room for gray, like real life.

“He c-comes to us all, Ruh-Reverend. He’s always w-with us. You and me aren’t duh-different. No one’s duh-different. It’s just that I nuh-know I’m small and everyone else thinks they’re buh-big. That’s why no one else c-can see Him. They pruh-pray and sing and say they luh-love Him, but d-deep down they think they know beh-better than He does. They d-do their own things because they thuh-think they’re b-big enough. But they’re not. No one’s big enough.”

Overall I enjoyed the novel and will recommend it to others. There were a few minor irritations I had with it (it was hard to read the stuttering portions because Coffey chose to spell them out phonetically instead of just repeating the actual letters), but the plot was compelling and never dragged.

It’s not sappy sweet, so be prepared for some suffering. But for both adults and kids alike, this book would make a great summer read to keep you thinking about what faith is. And what it isn’t.

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Have you read any of Billy Coffey’s books? Do you have a favorite book to read this summer? Please share in the comments.

thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy of this book

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