Aaron Holbrook was just a baby when his mother committed suicide. Her own sister happily took him in and raised him as her own, never revealing the truth about his mother’s fate. But then his aunt died, leaving a teen Aaron orphaned and alone.
Years later, Aaron’s life is rocked once again by tragedy and death. The loss of his son has dragged him deep into the depths of despair and drink, breaking up his marriage and causing Aaron to question everything. Determined to prove he can come back, though, he returns to Holbrook House intent on fixing it up. It’s to be his chance to win his wife back and show that he can beat the depression and alcohol that’s been eating away at him. But Aaron is haunted by more than his own tragedy. A boy appears at Holbrook House. A boy Aaron believes is harassing him. A boy no one but Aaron seems to be able to see.
Ania Ahlborn must take great pleasure in freaking out her readers. As the new reigning queen of horror, though, it’s quite appropriate.
The Bird Eater is definitely freaky. As the reader, we’re privy to at least one detail that Aaron himself is not and that’s exactly what happened to his mother. Her own sister has kept it from him, determined that Aaron will live a normal and happy life. And her secret is twofold considering the dead teen (Aaron’s mom) was said to have been pretty unstable. But of course Aaron’s adoptive mother soon learns there was much more to her sister’s ramblings than she ever gave her credit for.
And that’s just what’s revealed in the opening chapter.
Ahlborn keeps a lot hidden even by the time the story has ended. There’s a bit of reading between the lines that’s required, a history behind Holbrook House that’s never delved very deeply into (but would make a fabulous book on its own.). I personally would have loved more of that history and more about Birdie himself. Some might argue that the lack of detail and explanation makes the story more focused and creepy, though. The Bird Eater is Aaron’s story, after all, not Birdie’s or even Aaron’s mother’s. In that sense I actually agree. As stated above, Aaron never learns the truth about his mother. In fact, the little bit the reader learns about her and Holbrook house and Birdie is saved just for us and never revealed to Aaron at all.
Even without a deeper backstory, The Bird Eater is still a quick and satisfyingly creepy haunted house story. It has a killer ending, too.
4/16 Becky LeJeune
THE BIRD EATER by Ania Ahlborn. 47North (April 1, 2014). ISBN 978-1477817605. 267p.