Nine-year old Leah Norcross can’t get through a sentence without stuttering. Her gaze is often fixed on her feet, and she repeatedly rubs her thumb. Getting an entire town so riled up that it pits neighbor against neighbor was never her plan. Nor was being in the limelight. But when young Leah starts talking about the mystical Rainbow Man that she alone can see, and creating breathtaking paintings that have unprecedented effects on the people around her, she turns the rural town inside out. People don’t know if she’s an angel, a demon, or just plain crazy. Her father, a psychologist, fears for his daughter’s mental stability, and the town pastor is outraged. But Leah’s new friend, Allie, believes her and vows to stand by her side whatever happens. Until “whatever” becomes too painful.
WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING is like a walk through a boreal forest, where bits of sunlight filter through the shadows and you can’t shake the pervasive feeling that someone is watching, or the hope that your path will lead to a bright meadow.
"WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING offers a fresh perspective on God’s hand in our lives. It draws the reader in with the perfect package of excellent storytelling, three-dimensional characters, a touch of eeriness, and a clever wrap-up that satisfies without feeling too ribbons-n-bows."
Leah and her parents have moved to Mattingly from Away, and like anyone from Away, they are not accepted or trusted by the locals. But Leah is used to not being accepted. Her lifelong stutter and shyness alienated her from the other children in Away, and she expects nothing more from the kids in Mattingly. Her father, Tom, is determined to give Leah a fresh start in their new home, and extends an open invitation to Leah’s birthday party --- a party that nearly rivals the upcoming local carnival. With promises of rides, cotton candy and free entertainment, combined with a heavy dose of curiosity, the people come. Among them is Barney, a down-on-his-luck old-timer who used to run a toy shop with his wife, Mabel, before her stroke 10 years prior. When the Norcrosses hire Barney to make an easel for Leah, who loves to draw, they have no idea that it will be the catalyst for the wonders to follow.
Guided by the Rainbow Man, Leah thanks Barney with a painting, which is nothing like her previous stick-figure drawings. Rich in detail and so brilliant that its beauty nearly jumps off the page, the picture foreshadows a miraculous event that changes Barney’s life. When another painting follows, the townspeople are eager to see it, hoping it will bring good things to their lives as well. But the next painting is dark and ominous, with numbers misread by the hopeful townspeople. When the numbers don’t result in the good fortune they anticipated, many of Mattingly’s residents show their true colors --- colors as dark as Leah’s second painting.
As tension builds among their neighbors, the Norcrosses worry about their daughter’s relationship with her imaginary friend. Her father, an atheist, has had too many patients place their hope in God, only to be disappointed. But Allie stands by Leah, as promised. Meanwhile, the Rainbow Man asks Leah to do and say things that sometimes anger and at other times confuse the pastor and others in the town. Is this little girl truly hearing from God? If so, why would he choose her? And if not, is she insane? Possessed? Allie is convinced that Leah’s Rainbow Man is God, until Leah shares a prophetic message that will shatter Allie’s world. Following their heartbreaking separation, Leah’s father experiences a revelation that leads him to question everything he believes in…and doesn’t.
A catastrophic event at the conclusion results in the townspeople seeing Leah’s paintings with new eyes, and restores faith in ways they never could have imagined.
Author Billy Coffey has created a haunting story that will keep readers turning pages and pondering God’s unique ability to give us “hope and a future.” WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING offers a fresh perspective on God’s hand in our lives. It draws the reader in with the perfect package of excellent storytelling, three-dimensional characters, a touch of eeriness, and a clever wrap-up that satisfies without feeling too ribbons-n-bows.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on June 14, 2013