John Gregory Brown, winner of numerous prizes for his critically acclaimed literary fiction, served as judge for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Gold Medal for the Novel in October, 2016. He had this to say about The Last Bird: The Life of Adrian Mandrick, which was named Runner-Up.
"A very fine novel, both disturbing and deeply moving, about a man’s quest to overcome his childhood trauma and confront the awful damage he has inflicted upon his own family and upon himself. The novel is stark and disturbing and ultimately redemptive."
THE LIFE LIST OF ADRIAN MANDRICK
Editor: Lara Blackman, Touchstone Books
Agent: Tim Wojcik, Levin, Greenberg, Rostan
Fusing wry humor and family drama with elements of mystery and environmental adventure, The Life List of Adrian Mandrick follows a self-destructive top-level birder on a convoluted journey toward grace. With a compressed narrative style, and themes as urgent as its pace, it explores the ways we humans lose sight of what’s most essential in the face of our own fears:
Anesthesiologist Adrian Mandrick, a doctor addicted to the very pain medication he prescribes, is filled with contradictory impulses. He wants to be a good husband to his wife, a good father to his children, to forgive the crime his once-beloved mother committed and the long lost father who accused her. But his pills get in the way, and all he wants to think about is his life list—that all-encompassing list of 863 bird species he’s spotted and verified.
When a search for an extremely rare Ivory-billed Woodpecker—the same bird he and his mother thought they spotted in the fondest memory from his childhood—leaves him stranded in the thick swamplands of Florida’s panhandle, Adrian will be forced to confront his tumultuous past and his present failures, to take stock of what his obsessions and addictions have cost him, to question what is really important in his life, and to seek out a path toward redemption.
"That night, he dreams of the Woodpecker. Adrian is Alexander Wilson, the bird painter, and he has the huge Ivorybill attached to his waist by its leg with a telephone cord. They’re traveling in a carriage across the small farms and jungled forests of the south looking for a hotel, and as they enter upon a rickety bridge that crosses moving water, a muffled cry rises from below. Adrian (Alexander) yanks back on the reins to stop the horse, planning to search for the sound. But as he starts to climb out of the carriage, the bird begins pecking at his chin and face trying to get free, and when Adrian attempts to unhook the bird—it wasn’t worth it, he thinks; what was he thinking, he thinks; why would he tie a living creature to his waist; how had he traveled so long without asking this simple question—the telephone wire is coiled around the bird’s neck and wings, around Adrian’s forearms, binding his wrists, choking them both, the bird piercing his eardrums with its wailing. Adrian and the bird fall, in a flailing and constricted mass, to the floor of the bridge, still flailing, writhing, trapped together as one being, so that with every panicked movement, the cord gets tighter and more tangled. While from under the bridge, the sound inextricable from the shushing of the moving water, the sustained crying—the voice of his mother, hurt somewhere not so very far away, maybe trapped or wounded. He’ll never be able to get to her now."
- from The Life List of Adrian Mandrick
The Life List of Adrian Mandrick will be published by Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster) in spring of 2018! Keep a look out for more intro. It was named the runner-up for the Faulkner-Wisdom gold medal for the novel in October 2016.