Why Birds Sing by Nina Berkhout, ECW Press

Why Birds Sing

Berkhout, Nina

  • After a very public onstage flameout, a disgraced opera singer is confronted with her crumbling marriage, a prickly and unexpected brother-in-law, and a cheeky parrot named Tulip — and she must learn to whistle her way through it all.

    From the author of Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel The Gallery of Lost Species comes a charming, lively, and deeply felt story that is perfect for readers of Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness and Amy Jones’s We’re All in this Together.

    When opera singer Dawn Woodward has an onstage flameout, all she wants is to be left alone. She’s soon faced with other complications the day her husband announces her estranged brother-in-law, Tariq, is undergoing cancer treatment and moving in, his temperamental parrot in tow. To make matters worse, though she can’t whistle herself, she has been tasked with teaching arias to an outspoken group of devoted siffleurs who call themselves the Warblers. Eventually, Tariq and his bird join the class, and Dawn forms unexpected friendships with her new companions. But when her marriage shows signs of trouble and Tariq’s health declines, she begins questioning her foundations, including the career that she has worked so hard to build and the true nature of love and song.


    Price may vary by retailer

    Check availability at your local Canadian independent bookstore:

    Remember that most stores can easily order books they don’t currently have in stock.


  • Nina Berkhout is the author of two previous novels: The Mosaic, which was nominated for the White Pine Award and the Ottawa Book Awards and named an Indigo Best Teen Book, and The Gallery of Lost Species, an Indigo and Kobo Best Book and a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel. Berkhout is also the author of five poetry collections, including Elseworlds, which won the Archibald Lampman Award. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, she now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Published: October 2020

    ISBN: 9781770415812

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 248


“Capturing the joy that’s brought through camaraderie and passion, Why Birds Sing is an inspiring novel focused on the power of connections.” — Foreword Reviews

“An exuberant novel about the possibilities of song and community. Told with tenderness, Why Birds Sing explores life’s unexpected connections and the ways we care for and protect the people we love. Above all, Nina Berkhout reminds us that a life crisis is also a bridge, like the break in a song, carrying us past one part of our life and into the future. Like any great opera, it’s packed with a vibrant cast — star-crossed lovers, travelling whistlers, and one unforgettable bird.” — Claire Tacon, author of In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo

“The novel is both fun and funny … Readers looking for a fun and engrossing story will find Nina Berkhout delivers with plenty of finesse and sharp attention to detail — in the realms of opera, birdsong, and the little complications of everyday life.” — The Fiddlehead

“A bratty parrot, a group of whistlers, an opera singer who doesn’t sing — it’s impossible not to be charmed by the characters who inhabit Nina Berkhout’s Why Birds Sing. But this novel offers so much more than just a loveable, quirky cast of misfits, and Berkhout writes with an uncommon compassion and an uncanny understanding of what it means to be human. Why Birds Sing is an ode to the families we choose, and the love that chooses us (whether we want it to or not.) This is a beautiful novel full of humour, warmth, sorrow, and above all, music.” — Amy Jones, author of We’re All In This Together and Every Little Piece of Me

“I really loved this book for its quiet grace, subtle humour and its quirky cast of characters … Nina Berkhout has written a gorgeous, multi-layered novel that illustrates the beauty that can be revealed when the collapsing of one life leads to the building of another.” — Urban Info Girl blog