The Book of Dead Birds Summary & Study Guide

Gayle Brandeis
This Study Guide consists of approximately 67 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Book of Dead Birds.
This section contains 960 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Book of Dead Birds Study Guide

The Book of Dead Birds Summary & Study Guide Description

The Book of Dead Birds Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Brandeis, Gayle. The Book of Dead Birds. HarperCollins e- books, 2009. Kindle Edition.

Ava Sing Lo has been killing her mother’s birds by accident ever since she was a young child. Now she is living in San Diego with her mother, Hye-yang, after getting two degrees in communication, but not being able to find enough work to live on her own. She is also still killing her mother’s birds. She knows that this is a problem between her and her mother because her mother keeps a book, The Book of Dead Birds, chronicling how Ava manages to kill them while actually trying to do good acts. Ava wants to make things right between her mother and herself, so she decides to do two things. One is to tell her mother’s story and the other is to leave home and volunteer to help save pelicans that are dying from botulism as a result of eating poisoned fish.

When she arrives, it does not take long for her to realize that the environment is not an easy one to work in, however, she decides to stay and starts making a contribution by going along the beach and picking up the bodies of the dead birds. During her time there she makes new friends. A mutual attraction also grows between Ava and the man in charge of the save-the-birds project, Darryl. Due to her issues with her identity and her mother’s past Ava tries to deny her feelings for Darryl. She pulls away from him even more when she finds out that he has slept with a woman named Emily who is in her new circle of friends. Other negative events happen there as well. Emily drugs her water when they go to a rave and Ava finds a dead woman’s naked body while she is working.

When Ava’s mother finds out about the death, she surprises Ava by coming to see her because she is afraid that the police will arrest Ava for murder. While she is there, she meets Darryl and helps in the effort to save the birds. When she leaves, Darryl gets the opportunity to explain his short relationship with Emily to Ava. Ava understands, but cannot truly give herself to him because her mother’s past still holds her back.

The problem is that her mother was a prostitute. Her mother’s story is the other story that is told in the narrative. This is the story that Ava wants to make sure is told. The story chronicles her mother's life in Korea starting from when she leaves her village to work with her childhood friend, Sun, in another Korean village. When she leaves her mother tells her not to come back. Even so, when Sun goes back home because it is her grandmother's birthday, Ava's mother decides to go along with her. When no one picks her up and a dock worker asks whether she wants a ride, she accepts. While she is in the car with him, he forces her to give him sexual favors and then throws her out of the car. When she gets to her old house, there is no one there and she spends her time in her village alone. When she meets Sun on the day they are to leave, Sun tells her that she plans to leave the village they have been working in and take a job offer from a man who gave her a pink business card and said that she could become a famous dancer. The same man had earlier approached Ava’s mother with the same card telling her that she could be a famous singer. At first Ava's mother refuses to go, but after the incident with the man in the car, she does not do her job well and has to leave the village she and Sun had worked in. When she calls her mother and her mother says that she is dead to her, Ava’s mother decides to join Sun.

The job the man offered the girls is serving as prostitutes in a club for African American GIs. One day, Sun becomes disgusted with the whole situation and stands up for everyone and, in the process, is killed. Ava’s mother, who is pregnant with one of her client’s baby, leaves and runs into a man who thinks that she is pure and helps her. This man, James, marries her and takes her to the United States. He thinks that the baby is his, but once she has the baby, who is Ava, and he sees that it is black, he physically abuses Ava’s mother. Ava’s mother takes Ava and runs away. This is the past that haunts Ava's mother and causes her to treat Ava in a way that does not show love. It also haunts Ava and keeps her from having normal relationships with people.

After meeting Darryl, however, Ava’s mother surprises her by encouraging her to not only date him, but live with him as well. She even comes back with a friend she is now helping escape from her abusive husband and tells Ava that she can sleep at Darryl’s place. Ava is finally able to put her mother’s past behind her, just as her mother is, and she and Darryl begin a serious relationship. She also takes a temporary job doing work that she loves. By the end of the narrative Ava has found her identity, made friends, saved birds, and both she and her mother have found peace and started living in the present instead of the past.

Read more from the Study Guide

This section contains 960 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Book of Dead Birds Study Guide
The Book of Dead Birds from BookRags. (c)2022 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.