Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: Seeing Things by Patti Hill

Birdie Wainwright is in end stages of macular degeneration when she has one of the visions she's been having recently and she tumbles down her stairs, breaking her ankle badly enough to require surgery and an extended rehabilitation period in her son's home several hours away from her friends and her boyfriend. This choice of place for rehab is complicated in that Birdie and her daughter-in-law, cosmetic surgeon Suzanne, are not exactly kindred spirits. Suzanne loathes Birdie's dog, Bee, who has also come along for this trying time and who adds to the stress in a home already stretched by unhappiness. Fletcher, Birdie's 15 year old grandson, doesn't get along with his stepmother and his father, Andy, has no time for him (just as he also has no time for his wife or injured mother either). The four of them, plus the housekeeper, Lupe, circle around each other warily with occasional outbreaks of vicious hostility of Suzanne or Andy's parts.
As Birdie convalesces in this tense atmosphere, she draws closer to Fletcher, offering him the time and love that his father and stepmother seem to find in such short supply. But her relationship with Fletcher isn't the only one she's developing in Denver. She's adopted by the Bats, a group of visually challenged women who understand her daily challenges and she worms her way into the affections of Lupe, convincing her to pray with Birdie as often as possible. All these regular people should be enough, but Birdie is also having new visions, ones that she wants to encourage. After listening to Huckleberry Finn on Fletcher's iPod and eating some serious heartburn inducing Asian food, Birdie, starts seeing Huck. He seems to represent her past and the importance of family and love to her but his appearances and Huck-like antics do get her in trouble quite a lot. Mostly the bits with Huck were contrived and didn't do a whole lot to move the plot along or to explicate a theme well without having to have it definitively explained by Birdie to herself or to Huck. Somehow, this literary device that should have allowed the author to show not tell required more telling than strictly made for interesting reading.

As this is Christian fiction, there are a lot of instances where Birdie looks to scripture to help ease what is in her heart. She spends quite a bit of time in prayer for her family members, rejoicing when Fletcher starts to go to the local church youth group thanks to a girl from school who also goes. My chief irritation with the constant prayer refrain was how incredibly repetitious it was. Birdie used the exact same wording each time she prayed and I found myself wanting to skim through the whole "lowering [insert family member name here] onto the mat" for God. It didn't help that Birdie's conversational tone in her prayers essentially asked for what she wanted rather than leaving things up to God. But that's probably a bit of doctrinal difference between me as the reader and Hill as the author causing that little bit of difficulty.

And how's this for spectaclarly unchristian of me? Andy and Suzanne are hateful secondary characters who neither deserve nor earn their happy ending in any way, shape, or form. Simply suggesting that Birdie's prayers make them worthy added to my annoyance with the book as a whole. Sure eveyone in life does the very best they can but when characters who neither grow legitimately nor change soon enough in the narrative to make that change believable are gifted with an ending the book was never marching toward until the last couple pages in the penultimate chapter (the final chapter being the syrupy sweet epilogue), it makes this reader a tad crabby. The ending is rushed and unbelievable and treacly. There are many readers out there who will appreciate it regardless but I wasn't one of them.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. Kristen, thanks for the great/honest review. I passed on this one, but had considered it. You are a "reading machine" lately LOL

  2. Thank you for the excellent and honest review. This doesn't sound like the type of thing that would appeal to me.

  3. Thank you for such a great review. I'd had somebody recommend this to me, but think I'll pass since some of the things you had trouble with would really bug me, too. Thanks!


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