Flight Season: A Novel

Flight Season: A Novel

by Marie Marquardt


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250107015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 295,993
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

MARIE MARQUARDT is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of Dream Things True and The Radius of Us. She has published articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. Marie is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog, and a bearded dragon.

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May 29, 12:37 P.M.

Grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)

What is this little guy doing at a South Carolina rest stop? Is one of nature's best navigators lost?

Social Behavior: typically not in flocks, can be very secretive, but often perch atop shrubs to sing.

Call: double or triple ticking note, followed by long insect-like buzz.

Habitat: migrating bird, found during breeding season in much of the northern and midwestern United States. Winters in Mexico and the coastal southeastern US.

It's a migratory bird, and it should be LONG GONE!

LATELY I'VE DEVELOPED a fascination with birds. It started in December, when a lovely little songbird perched above me in the branch of an enormous oak tree and refused to shut up. At the time, all I knew was that it was small and loud and incredibly persistent.

Now I know it was an American robin.

Birders give every bird's song a phrase, which is supposed to mirror the rhythm and tone of their sound. One of my favorite common birds, the barred owl, sings out in a low tenor, Who cooks for you? But the American robin doesn't ask questions. Instead it incessantly commands: Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up! Which is an especially frustrating thing to hear when you're sitting at an outdoor funeral in the blinding light of a Florida winter, trying to pay attention to the eulogy.

I don't remember much from that day, except for how bright blue the sky was, set against all of those dark suits, and how many people had crammed into my backyard — hundreds of mourners pressed against the edge of the still lake. And I remember hearing fragments of a traditional hymn, because everyone around me was singing about "awesome wonder" and "the greatness of God," while I was entertaining such not-so-awesome thoughts as: I wonder where the ashes are and When will all of these people leave us alone?

I stayed outside and sat in the shadow of that sprawling oak tree. I stared up at the Spanish moss, gray and dripping from every branch, waiting to feel something. Anything.

And that robin? He stuck around and kept me company. He sang to me, high and clear, until all the guests had gone back to their not-torn-through-with-grief lives (probably feeling quite anxious to cheerily cheer up!).

After that, I started to pay attention to birds, which wasn't terribly difficult. As it turns out, they were paying a whole lot of attention to me.

Take this little sparrow: I'm on my way home after having (barely) survived my first year of college, and I'm not even remotely surprised when I pull into the parking lot of a run-down gas station, only to encounter him watching me with beady black eyes. He's perched on a rusted-out handicapped parking sign, staring right at me.

I think he's a grasshopper sparrow, or maybe a Savannah sparrow. Either way, this little guy should already be at his summer home in Maine, or maybe hopping around the grasslands of the Great Plains, plucking up insects. He doesn't belong in the swamplands of rural South Carolina — not with summer fast approaching.

This poor bird has lost its bearings.

His stout neck flicks from side to side and he lets out a loud call: a triple ticking note followed by a long humming buzz.


His insect-like call gives it away. He definitely is a grasshopper sparrow, which means he definitely is lost.

Unless, of course, he stuck around to wait for me.

These birds may have pea-sized brains, but they are not dumb. They're incredible. They can make their way across continents with nothing but their own good sense. One time, a group of scientists packed up a few dozen sparrows in Washington State, took them on a plane to Princeton, New Jersey, and set them free. Within a couple of hours, they all were heading straight for their wintering grounds in Mexico.

What kind of sparrows were those? White-crowned?

I pull out my phone to do a quick search, but I'm distracted by a string of incoming texts.

The first few are from my roommate, Gillian. From the fragments I can see, it appears that she's reached Chicago, the first stop on our epic summer music road trip. We planned it together, and then I abandoned her before it even started.

Since I'm currently at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, on my way home to repair last semester's epic mistakes, I can't muster the energy to look at her texts.

I scroll down to the next one, from my mom:

I'm thinking maybe a little change of plans. ... Call me!

I watch the screen, forcing myself to take slow breaths, wondering if she'll tell me more. Nothing. When I look up, the sparrow has hopped over to perch on a metal pole beside a convenience store's entrance, like he's urging me to go in.

Maybe that bird is right. Maybe I should head in and get something to eat before I make this call — Twizzlers to gnaw on. They always calm my nerves.

I close my bird journal and put it in the passenger seat. I rest the binoculars on top and get out of the car. The door jangles as I go inside.

"Need somethin'?" a man behind the counter asks.


"Last aisle, on the right."

I walk along the gray linoleum floor, following the almost-white path made by hundreds of feet shuffling toward the candy.

"Look up," the man says. "See 'em there?"

I look up, but I don't see them. I'm squinting, scanning the brightly colored candies crammed onto metal shelves. I'm having trouble paying attention, because even through the thick plate glass, I hear that little sparrow's song.

Tick-tick-tick-buzzzzzzzzzzzz. Tick-tick-tick-buzzzzzzzzzzzz. Tick-tick-tick-buzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The convenience store clerk comes out from behind the counter with, of all things, a baby strapped to his back — and a handgun attached to his belt.


He reaches beyond me and then hands me a king-sized bag of Twizzlers.

"Here you are, miss." He glances out the window at my car. "I guess you won't be needing gas."

My car's electric. It's also beautiful and sleek and near perfect. I know that teenagers shouldn't drive a car like this. I get it. So the amused tone in his voice and the way he looks back at me and gives me a quick once-over — they don't bother me. I understand where he's coming from.

And I can't exactly explain to this man, this kind stranger with a baby on his back and a gun in his belt loop, how much this car means to me — how much more it is for me than a status symbol for the environmentally conscious. Because, here's the thing about my car: no matter how bad things get, I can still climb in and press the start button. I can gently bring the engine to life, and I can remember the moment I got it — a moment filled with the bright possibility of a beautiful future. I'm clinging to that future, grasping for it, but I feel it slipping out of my reach, darting away with nervous, erratic, unpredictable jolts. It's like I'm trying to hold on to a hummingbird.

"Never seen one of those in person," the clerk says. "How far can you go without charging it?"

"Three hundred and fifty miles or so. It's amazing." I know I'm gushing, but I love that car with all my heart.

"And what do you do out here on the road when you need to charge it?"

"I have an app. It tells me where I can stop to charge."

"An app?" he asks, his eyebrows arching.

"Well, you know what they say." I shrug. "There's an app for everything these days."

He nods and pinches his lower lip, like he's thinking, but he doesn't ask anything more.

I'm tempted to tell him about the amazing birding apps I have on my phone — one of them can actually identify any North American bird from a photograph and a GPS locator. But he'll probably think I'm a basket case.

Down here on the ground, we barely ever give these feathered wonders a moment's notice, even though they have been on Earth for eons longer than we have. Most people don't know that birds are dinosaurs' closest descendants. They will, no doubt, outlast us all, and that's probably for the best.

Most people find my bird obsession weird. I get it. Six months ago, if someone had suggested to me that I'd be pulling over to the side of the road on a regular basis to strap a pair of binoculars around my neck and grab a journal from the glove compartment, or if someone had explained to me that I would sketch furiously while struggling to detect the subtle differences between two sparrows, or that I would know to focus my attention on the trill of their song and the hue of their underbellies, I would have said they were insane.

But the truth is this: I only started paying close attention to birds because they started paying attention to me.

I could offer any number of examples from the past six months. The horned owl that followed me home as I ran away from a dorm party where a junior I'd never met before cornered me and started to grope. The common raven that dive-bombed me several times as I attempted to enter the lecture hall where I was supposed to take an English exam covering a broad range of Canadian novels on the theme of refuge — most of which I had not managed to read.

And this one, from a couple of weeks ago: I was studying for exams, utterly sleep-deprived and subsisting on Twizzlers and Monster Energy drinks. During exams, space in the library is incredibly hard to come by, and I was feeling proud that I had managed to find a private desk by the window in the Southeast Asia Reading Room.

Yale's library is an astounding building — it looks more like a cathedral than a place to store books. In fact, when I first got to campus last fall, the space felt a bit overwhelming. It seemed almost too quintessentially Ivy League to be real. But any library with the motto A LIBRARY IS A SUMMONS TO SCHOLARSHIP carved on the walkway was exactly the place I needed to be that week. Up until that point, my second semester at Yale had been significantly lacking in scholarship, and I had three short reading days to make up for lost time.

I was camped out at a desk by the window, cramming the stability patterns of reactive intermediates into my exhausted brain. A small yellow bird came tapping on one of the windowpanes with its beak — so hard that I was sure it would shatter the leaded glass. And then the bird perched on a branch and started to call out.

That bird was an American goldfinch. Its call? Po-ta-to-chip, po-ta-to-chip. After enduring several minutes of unrelenting song, I finally gave up, slammed my textbook shut, and took the stairs down to the library's exit. Dazed, I emerged onto Rose Walk and into the sunlight. I followed the scent of buttered toast to the Cheese Truck and ordered the daily special, a grilled Caseus cheese with farm-fresh spinach, with potato chips on the side. I let my eyes fall shut and slowly breathed in the most comforting aromas of all time. Then I carried those chips and grilled cheese on sourdough to my favorite bench in a shady corner of Calhoun courtyard and devoured them.

It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. The chips were fabulous, too, with the perfect amount of salt and a satisfying crunch.

I'm almost certain that I tanked the exam. Remembering all those stability patterns was probably a lost cause from the start, but I'll never forget that perfect grilled cheese — and the goldfinch that made me stop to eat it.

* * *

I hang around in the candy aisle for another minute or two, pretending to study the shelves. I peer over a tower of chewing gum. The clerk is shifting his gun holster to transfer the sleeping baby into a Pack 'n Play. It's set up under the counter, behind the cigarette display. I don't want to interrupt him, so I wait until after the baby is settled to pay.

Standing there, desperate to kill time so that I won't have to make that call to my mom, I consider asking if he brings his baby to work every day. But then I worry that there's some tragic story behind it all — like maybe his wife left him for his brother, or she died in a terrible interstate accident involving an eighteen-wheeler. Maybe he was in the car too. Maybe it was his fault, and the agony of having killed his wife is almost too much for him to bear.

God, what is wrong with me? Not everybody's life has to be in shambles.

I decide that's enough death and destruction for today. His wife probably went to visit her mom in Beaufort or something. Or maybe she's at home, right around the corner, making tuna sandwiches for lunch. Maybe he just likes hanging out with his little girl at work — a way to pass the time.

My phone rings. Mom.

I say a quick thanks and head toward the door.

"Hi, Mom. I was just about to call."

I swing the door of the convenience store open, and a blast of sweltering hot air hits me at the same time as her voice.

"Good news, Viv!"

For as long as I can remember, my mom's voice has served as a precise barometer of her mood. With only a few words, I can tell how she's faring. It's hard to admit, but I've come to dread our phone calls. Because, when she's sounding bereft, and I'm several states away, doing everything I can to hold it together enough to keep from failing out of school, I have no idea how to talk to her.

But today she sounds good. Great, actually.

"My friend Anita is going to North Carolina for the summer. She's giving pottery workshops at an artist colony near Celo —"

I'm not sure how any of this is relevant to Mom and me. But I think I know what she wants me to say, so I say it. I interject with an enthusiastic "And?"

"She's decided to focus the workshop around roots, trees, leaves, and branches. ..."

My voice rises. "And?"

"Oh, well, I just thought you should know. ..."

It's a game we used to play when Dad came home from a day in court with another wild idea. He would burst into the kitchen, announcing a string of facts that appeared in no way relevant to our lives.

Did you two know that Bhutan has extraordinary biodiversity? And an incredibly diverse range of climates. ...


The takin is Bhutan's national animal, but most people travel there to get a sighting of the Bengal tiger or the clouded leopard. ...


Oh, and there are some fabulous Buddhist monasteries there. I mean, if you're into that kind of thing. ...


I was just driving home from work and thinking about how you two might not know a whole lot about Bhutan, and perhaps you should. ...


And I've booked a trip. Vivi's spring break. How does that sound to y'all?

So, even though it hurts, physically, to play this game with my mother, and a hole is opening up in my chest, I squeeze my eyes shut and make myself do it.


"And she's offered us her beach cottage."

I lean against the wall and rip open the bag of Twizzlers.

"It's so adorable. Just a few houses from the ocean. You're going to love it."

I start gnawing on a Twizzler, watching the sparrow hop to the pavement and begin a little jig.


"Uh, that sounds like a great adventure, Mom."

I say it because that's how the game always ended. But what I really want to say is: Can I please just come home?

"I think we'll be happier there, Vivi," she says, a touch of melancholy creeping back into her voice. "I know it's last-minute, but are you willing to give it a try?"

I'm thinking so much about that subtle shift in her voice, and about what it might mean, that I can't seem to produce a response.

"If you don't like it," she continues, "we can always decide to go back home."

"Sure, I'm always up for an adventure."

I say it because I'm a Flannigan, and we are adventurers. But even as I'm saying it, I know that — for me — it's no longer true. I'm like a common pigeon these days — entirely sedentary and almost incapable of caring for myself. It seems like I've spent the last several months waiting around for someone to throw me any old scrap of food. The crazy thing? Common pigeons, the ones that prefer to stay put and take scraps from strangers, are closely related to homing pigeons — the most incredible long-distance navigators out there. Homing pigeons are heroes. They were bred for special bird battalions and trained as spies during the World Wars. One brave World War II bird-soldier nicknamed G.I. Joe saved more than a thousand British troops when he swooped in and let the bombers know they needed to call the bombing off.

"How far is it to my internship?" I gnaw on a Twizzler, savoring the gummy sweetness and the way my teeth feel pressing against it.


Excerpted from "Flight Season"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Marie Marquardt.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Chapter One: Vivi,
Chapter Two: TJ,
Chapter Three: Vivi,
Chapter Four: Ángel,
Chapter Five: Vivi,
Chapter Six: TJ,
Chapter Seven: Vivi,
Chapter Eight: Ángel,
Chapter Nine: Vivi,
Chapter Ten: TJ,
Chapter Eleven: Vivi,
Chapter Twelve: Ángel,
Chapter Thirteen: Vivi,
Chapter Fourteen: TJ,
Chapter Fifteen: Vivi,
Chapter Sixteen: Ángel,
Chapter Seventeen: Vivi,
Chapter Eighteen: TJ,
Chapter Nineteen: Vivi,
Chapter Twenty: Ángel,
Chapter Twenty-One: Vivi,
Chapter Twenty-Two: TJ,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Vivi,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Ángel,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Vivi,
Chapter Twenty-Six: TJ,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Vivi,
Chapter Twenty-Eight: TJ,
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Vivi,
Chapter Thirty: Ángel,
Chapter Thirty-One: Vivi,
Chapter Thirty-Two: TJ,
Chapter Thirty-Three: Vivi,
Also by Marie Marquardt,
About the Author and Illustrator,

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Flight Season: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
There are some authors whose works transcend literature, whether it be because of the way they use language, their masterfully crafted plots, or the way they bring characters to life. Marquardt is one of those authors and characters are her strength. Flight Season is nothing short of beautiful. I didn’t know what to expect going in, as I don’t read a lot of books that involve hospitals or illness or grief. But I loved Dream Things True so I knew I had to read this. The characters in this novel are so lifelike that I had to keep reminding myself that they weren’t real. But they FELT real. I felt like we were all sitting together and they were directly telling me their stories. There was so much more than what originally meets the eye with each of them and it was impossible not to fall in love. They each have their share of heartbreak or tension to work through and it’s just so real. In being real, this book also really knows how to tug on the heartstrings. It’s not an easy read by any means. Between illness, death, politics, and interpersonal relationships, I felt like my heart was being tugged in so many different directions. And the worst part is that these characters are all just stand ins for real people going through all of these things. Scenes with ICE agents and discussions of immigration were the hardest to read given the fact that they’re being had by so many people around us all the time. I will read whatever Marquardt writes, from here to eternity. Her books are enlightening and educational, but also real and emotional. Flight Season is a beautiful piece of literature that I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time.
UpAllNightBB More than 1 year ago
Marie Marquardt’s Flight Season is a beautiful story of love and loss and how, with strength from inside and those around you, you can eventually learn to live again. Birds in general are a symbol of freedom. To Vivi, they are phenomenal and are always there when she needs an answer to something important in her life. She’s a quiet Yale student looking at surviving the summer while interning at a hospital. It is here at the hospital where she meets TJ, always late and very annoyed, he seems to not pay her much attention. He’s actually a sweet and kind guy who just wants to avoid the new girl who hasn’t made the best first impression in him. Angel is a scrawny teen who likes giving his helpers a hard time but they are actually all the company he has. Angel is a wonderful character, albeit it doesn’t always go that well with him, but he’s become quite a unique part of this entire story. “So they started avoiding me, and I started avoiding them, because I couldn’t bear how much they were living. And they couldn’t bear seeing how I was dying inside.” Every character has a way of growing on you and you almost wish they were real people that you knew personally. The story, from the first page, keeps drawing you in and you gladly walk along absorbing everything. This book deserves five-flight-worthy stars!
mindofabookdragon More than 1 year ago
Once I picked up this book I could hardly put it down. I’m so glad I brought it along with me on my trip to Chicago last weekend! I rode the train which took so much longer than I thought and it was a perfect companion. I finished it the very next day because I was so tired on the ride back that I had to put it down for the last hour of the trip. This is quite an exceptional book. Though I find the ending to be a bit far from what would actually happen, I can’t imagine this story without it. As I read this book I loved the three characters more and more. I like how each chapter was styled to fit with each voice of the character it took on. Vivi’s chapters always started with an entry in her birding journal. It was so fun to learn more about birds and see how they related to her (and the book title). Birds are always used in literature as a contrast to humans, and I like the different way that it’s used in this book. I love how Vivi sees the world through and with birds in them. It’s something I didn’t think about before and I immediately wished that I could see each one of the birds she wrote about in her journal immediately. Ángel was definitely a voice I wasn’t expecting. We don’t get to read his POV every third chapter like some books, and I found myself looking forward to each one that I did get to read. He had a unique perspective and his role in the book became more and more apparent as more of his story was revealed. I feel that Ángel gave depth to the book that couldn’t be achieved any other way. TJ was a fun character to get to know too. His family reminded me a little bit of mine, but mine isn’t as conflicting as his. Except I would be more like his cousin’s family because mine is so big. His voice was well written and I enjoyed his dialogue and the way he changed over the course of the novel. Seeing him interact with Vivi and Ángel was my favorite part of the book. This book deals with a lot of serious topics. Grief and death are strong themes throughout. The topic of immigration is also something that comes to play a big part in this book. It’s something that is handled and written about well. I feel that anything but writing it with the utmost care is something that could go awry quickly. Marquardt’s care with these are apparent and I respect that about her strength as a writer. I did feel that the ending was a bit unrealistic. It was something that was of the ideal situation in the way that it happened, but I can’t quite go along with this one. I can’t imagine it any other way though. I’m glad it ended this way in the very end. I hope you take the time to find this book this Tuesday! It’s a unique read that is well worth your time. Happy reading, Sophie