Longlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize
“A modern coming-of-age full of love, desperation, heartache, and magic” (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author) about “the ways in which family, grief, love, queerness, and vulnerability all intersect” (Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author). Perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Thirty Names of Night.
Though Owen Tanner has never met anyone else who has a chatty bird in their chest, medical forums would call him a Terror. From the moment Gail emerged between Owen’s ribs, his mother knew that she had to hide him away from the world. After a decade spent in hiding, Owen takes a brazen trip outdoors in the middle of a forest fire, and his life is upended forever.
Suddenly, Owen is forced to flee the home that had once felt so confining and hide in plain sight with his uncle and cousin in Washington. There, he feels the joy of finding a family among friends; of sharing the bird in his chest and being embraced fully; of falling in love and feeling the devastating heartbreak of rejection before finding a spark of happiness in the most unexpected place; of living his truth regardless of how hard the thieves of joy may try to tear him down. But the threat of the Army of Acronyms is a constant, looming presence, making Owen wonder if he’ll ever find a way out of the cycle of fear.
A heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about the things that make us unique and lovable, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved, let alone accepted, for who we truly are, and learning to live fully and openly regardless.
Lund's accomplished debut imagines an LGBTQ allegory with a blend of magical fantasy and stark reality. A talkative bird named Gail lives inside the rib cage of Owen Tanner. After a nurse discovers Gail during an emergency doctor's visit for Owen's asthma at 14, his mother moves him from their home in Montana to the outskirts of Olympia, Wash., to live with his uncle Bob and teenage cousin, Tennessee, where he is safe from the clutches of the doctors his mother calls "the Army of Acronyms." There, at 16, Owen's suicidal ideations tempt him to wade into the ocean to "live with the mermaids." He discovers a kindred spirit in Tennessee, who is exploring her sexual identity, and who places a ring of salt around the house to protect him. Together, they navigate the traumas and heartbreaks of their formative years, with Gail present at every step of the way: Owen crushes on a neighbor named Clyde, the boys contend with Clyde's abusive "thief of joy" father, and the trio of Owen, Tennessee, and Clyde plan to run away after a climactic "last hurrah" involving a psychedelic rave. Lund's emotive prose treats Owen's burgeoning development with grace and care. This fine effort succeeds at bringing new life to the coming-of-age story. Agent: Cassie Mannes Murray, Howland Literary.