Book of Wings is a novel that has the hypnotic aspects of poetry. And while the heaviness of grief on the part of the narrator is tangible, the prose is wonderfully melodic. It is a beautiful artifact to hold in one’s hands; the cover design, by David Drummond, is outstanding.
I could describe the novel as exotic but not as alien, rather as fascinating and intriguing. It is full of the marvels of taste (roasted eggplant tagine for example), scent (rose oil and cannabis referred to as “kif”), sound (a choir of muezzins) and many sights as the narrator travels from British Columbia’s West Coast to the Gulf of Mexico and on to France and then Morocco.
While a novel is a work of fiction, the narrator of Book of Wings puts it this way: “There are three versions of this story: mine, his, and the Truth.”
In an interview, author Tawhida Tanya Evanson said about her writing, “The work is only ever as good as my ability to transmit the Truth.” She also said, “I write from epiphany that is then crafted. The result may want to remain on the page or take another art form. I try not to get in the way.”
In this beautifully crafted series of epiphanies, the “his” or he of the story is Shams. (Hz. Mevlana Jalalu’ddin Rumi’s teacher and beloved friend was a man called Shams, meaning “sun.” Rumi is quoted at the beginning of the book.)
“Mine” or the me of the story is the narrator, a woman named Maya.
The references to wings begin with Shams, the narrator’s lover who has packed up and left during “Paris in the Springtime”—“two wings, un oiseau.” (Evanson uses French at times and provides translations. Some of the translations of French words and phrases, as well as Arabic, are provided at the beginning of the book.)
“Everything that occurs becomes poetry, whether by crime or accident. Even my hatred is transformed. The laws of love may elude, but I will get through this theatre, this flower of folly,” Maya says before she leaves France.
She takes a boat, the Marrakesh, to Morocco. “Only African descent asking to be the future,” she acknowledges as she heads for the “motherland.”
Her encounters with men on her travels are unwanted intrusions, with a few exceptions. In Marrakesh, one man tells Maya, “You are going through something very beautiful. Once you surrender, you will be like a newborn. It’s good that you came to Morocco.”
Maya meets Matthieu, a man who is also from Tiiohtia:ke/Montreal, which Maya describes as her hometown. She sees Matthieu as part of the “organic process” and is able to “take refuge in him because in my state, there are still too many aggressors around…” In the end Maya says, “I failed to keep the company of my beloved. But I will never fail Love.”
A gorgeous book that with its end will lead you back to reading it all over again.