Author Interview and Giveaway – The Nature of Small Birds – Susie Finkbeiner

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With a sensitive touch, Susie Finkbeiner brings to our awareness a little-known historical event surrounding the Vietnam War: Operation Babylift. Susie uses multiple eras to paint the portrait as an American family struggles with the aftermath of a foreign war-time adoption. Welcome to the Index, Susie!

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The Nature of Small Birds

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Susie’s Website


Questions about Susie’s Story

Which scene (give us the chapter) is your favorite, the one you never tired of working with? Give us a reason to look forward to it.

It’s hard for me to pick favorite scenes, but one I particularly enjoyed was in chapter three. It’s set in 1988 and involves two teenaged sisters fighting over being late to school. I especially love this scene because it echoes near daily arguments I had with my own sister in high school. Plus, it involves lot of great 1980s references and slang that were just so fun to remember.

Why did you choose the year in which your book is set?

When I first started writing this particular story, I intended to keep it in 1975, the year the Americans evacuated Vietnam and the year of Operation Babylift. However, as I researched, I felt the need to tell this story across three different timelines. 1975, the year that the Matthews family adopted Minh. 1988, when Minh (now known by Mindy) is coming of age and figuring out who she is and her place in her family. 2013, when Mindy is in her forties and interested in seeking out her birth mother.

I learned as I researched that the story of adoption can’t just be told in the months and year following the first time the child and parents meet. It’s a story that spans a lifetime and I really wanted to capture that in this novel.

Did you stumble upon anything in your research for this book that made you sad?

I cried many times as I researched for the writing of this novel. Of course, learning about the after effects of war is always heartbreaking. I think what made this deep dive into history particularly difficult was that I was researching the impacts of war on children.

Perhaps the saddest part of this research was reading about the crash of the very first airplane that was carrying orphans from Saigon to be adopted in the United States. 138 people died in that crash, most of them children. Many of the birth mothers who had recently placed their small children in orphanages mourned, not knowing if their babies were on that flight. Many never learned. Some were surprised when, decades later, the children they’d feared dead made efforts to reunite with them.


Questions about Susie’s Reading

What was the last Christian Historical Novel you read, and what was your favorite thing about it?

I recently read Shadows of the White City by the remarkable Jocelyn Green. I adored how vibrantly she painted the setting of 1893 Chicago and the World’s Fair. Chicago is a city I so dearly love and it was such fun to read a story set there, and one so well written!

What was the last Christian Historical Novel that made you cry?

The very last paragraph of Allison Pittman’s The Seamstress did me in. It was gorgeously written and even after a year, it still gets me teary eyed.

What was the last Christian Historical Novel whose characters stayed in your head days after you finished reading it?

 Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Under the Bayou Moon is peopled with characters that are so authentic, so endearing, that I couldn’t stop thinking about them even after I read the last page. That’s like magic, as far as I’m concerned.

Susie is giving away a paperback copy, USA addresses only. Enter the Rafflecopter below!

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