Excerpt from Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Starling Days

by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan X
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2020, 304 pages
    Apr 2021, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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Chapter 1

She wasn't expecting the bridge to shudder. It was too big for trembling. Cars hissed from New York to New Jersey over its wide back. That August had been hot, 96° Fahrenheit hot. Heat softened the dollar bills and clung to the quarters and dimes that passed from sticky hand to sticky hand.

It was night and the air had cooled but humidity still hung in a red fog in Mina's lungs. Wind galloped over the Hudson, pummeling the city with airy hooves. The bridge shifted, the pylons swayed, and Mina closed her eyes to better feel her bones judder. Even her teeth shook. The day's sweat shivered between her bare shoulder blades. The tank top felt too thin, and the down on her arms rose. She took a step forward along the bridge. The tender spots between her big and index toes were sore from too many days in flip-flops. She took the sandals off. They swung from her fingers as she walked. Under her feet, the rough cement was warm. She wondered about the people driving their shadowy cars. Were they leaving over-air-conditioned offices, or bars cooled by the thwack of ceiling fans? Were they going home to empty condos,

or daughters tucked under dinosaur quilts?

The bridge was decked out in blue lights, like a Christmas tree, like those monochrome ones shopping malls put up. Still, it was beautiful. Mina readied her phone to take a picture. She watched the granulated night appear onscreen. Perhaps her hands wobbled, because the photo was a blur. It was nothing she could send Oscar. But she wasn't sure it was a good idea to send him pictures. Not tonight.

She stopped in the middle of the bridge. Hello, Manhattan. Downriver, apartment blocks spiked upwards. She couldn't see Queens and the walk-up apartment building she'd grown up inside. Nor could she see the Park Slope apartment, in which Oscar was working late. He'd have a mug on his desk, the coffee gone cold hours ago. The photo of her would be propped up behind his computer. The sparkly stress ball she'd bought him years ago as a joke gift would rest at his wrist. Every hour or so he'd roll it between his palms. When he was working, he didn't notice time. She was sure he wouldn't yet be worried. She'd said she was meeting some friends after the tutoring gig. He didn't know she'd texted the group that she was feeling unwell and would miss movie night. He wouldn't expect her for at least two hours. No one was expecting her. She was unwitnessed. She lifted her face to the breeze.

The river was as dark as poured tarmac. They said that when a body fell onto water from this height, it was like hitting the sidewalk. The Golden Gate had nets to stop jumpers. She imag- ined the feeling of a rope cutting into arms and legs. Your body would flop, like a fish. How long did they have to lie there before someone scooped them out? There was nothing like that here. People said that drowning was a good death, that the tiny alveoli of the lungs filled like a thousand water balloons.

She lifted one purple flip-flop and dropped it over the water. She didn't hear it hit. The shape simply vanished into the black shadow.

That was when the lights got brighter and the voice, male and certain, lobbed into her ears. "Ma'am, step away from the rail."

The police car's lights flashed blue and white and red. Once she'd had an ice-pop those colors and the sugary water had pooled behind her teeth.

"Ma'am, step away from the rail."

"Good evening, Officer. Have I done something wrong?" Mina asked.

"Please get into the car," he said. There were two of them. The other was younger and he was speaking into a radio. It was hard to make out his words over the wind and traffic. Was he talking about her?

"This is a public walkway," Mina said. "It was open. I haven't done anything wrong."

"Ma'am, get into the car."

"I don't want to get into the car. Look, I was just getting some air. I was thinking. I'll go home now."

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Excerpt from Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Published April 2020 by The Overlook Press/ABRAMS. Copyright © 2020 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. All rights reserved.

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