The Bird That Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pages: I’m going to be honest, I listened to this story on Audible so I’m not sure how many pages there are – not even for the eBook version of this story.

Goodreads: The Bird that Sang in Color

Genres: Literary Fiction

Publication date: January 17, 2021

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In her teens, Donna Greco subscribes to a conventional view of success in life – and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent, to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbours guilt for her supposed failure in relation to his happiness until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life. In fact, it prompts her own journey to live authentically.

Focusing on serious issues such as alcoholism, death, and family conflict, Mattioli manages to balance the serious with wit and humour. The story spans decades, beginning in 1970 and ending in the present. Readers will be left wondering “What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”

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“I just really always thought I had to live a certain way to be happy. I can still hear my dad telling me to be sure to marry rich. You know, it’s funny the voices that get stuck in your head, even when you know they’re wrong. But yesterday it just all hit me. I have all the thing I thought I always wanted and I’m fucking miserable. All I need is myself to be happy. But I don’t have myself as long as I’m lying to myself.”

Chapter Twelve

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I found this to be a very cute slice of life story. It took me about an hour of listening to the story to really get into it, but once that first car ride was over I found myself sitting in my parked car, waiting for the chapter to be over before I turned the story off. I didn’t want it to end, even though I needed to get out of the car and go about my day.

Part of what I really liked about this story is how real the situations felt. Donna’s life wasn’t an easy one but she never gave up. She kept pushing herself forward towards finding her own happiness. She pushed back against societal ideals about “the perfect life” or being the perfect wife. Heck, Donna even learned to push her loved ones towards their own happiness instead of doing what they were told would make them happy. Of course, she also learned when it’s best to hold her tongue and let her loved ones figure things out on their own.

Life isn’t easy and I appreciate the fact that Mattioli didn’t sugarcoat it in this story. She dealt with harder topics and issues people face throughout their lifetimes. She showcased what it’s like to realize you’re unhappy but worth being happy. How getting out of a bad situation can make all the difference in the world in finding your inner happiness.

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*Spoilers ahead*

I personally can’t image the pain of losing someone as close to you as your mother or sibling. I’m lucky enough that my only sister is still alive, as are both of my parents. Yet even still, my heart broke when Donna lost her mother, and then it broke a little more when Vincent was taken from her. The two people in her life who always made things better for her.

At least something good came out of these deaths. After her mother died, Donna learned not to take life for granted, to enjoy every moment that you have with your loved ones because you never know if it’s going to be the last time you see them. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s an important one.

And Vincent’s death finally knocked some sense into Donna. She wasn’t happy with Frank – hadn’t been for years. Vincent got her to really think about her life, about the things that made her happy. Sure she had her kids and her family, but that alone wasn’t enough. She’d spent years having to drag her kids to hotel rooms when Frank had “rough nights”. She was constantly being belittled and talked down to, overall just made to feel lesser. And she deserved more than that.

On a much happier note, I adored that her little Vincent called Donna his best friend. That’s really all Donna wanted out of life – to have a child that saw her as their best friend, to help make at least one of her kids as happy as possible. The parallels between her brother Vincent and her son named after him both thinking their mothers are their best friends is just heart warming. I have to believe that Donna’s son Vincent is going to find happiness, no matter what his life might look like on the outside.

This story brings up a fantastic point about the pictures you’ll have of your life when it’s over. Will you have a happy and fulfilled life, or have you been forcing yourself to live life the way society expects you to? Are you living for you?

I’d like to think that I carve out time for things that I enjoy doing, that the pictures I’ll be leaving behind – even if they only exist in my head because I’m a terrible artist – will be full of colour and joy. That I won’t just think of my life as a miserable old lady who gave up living for herself. Thankfully, I’m still young enough to ensure that this sad old lady never has a chance to be. I have the time to work on my life and ensure that there are things that I enjoy. I might not have the most thrilling life, but all that matters is I’m able to find happiness in the simple things. And this book helped me realize that I need to ensure to find time to do it.

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