Liz Gunn speaks to author Emma Neale
Moving, insightful, lyrical and also at times very funny, this novel is a supple, disarmingly frank exploration of parenthood.Liam and Iris have one son: Billy, a bright 'toddler puddling about like a penguin, leaving surrealist art installations all over the house- a tiny cow in a teapot in a hat on the doorstep, of course! A stuffed crocodile in a silk camisole perched beside a woollen chick in a beanie on the bread-bin, why not!'Just as they are despairing about being able to conceive another child, Jason comes into their family. He arrives under fraught circumstances, but might just make a perfect sibling for Billy. Jason is a ' lovely, poor, sad, unfortunate, ordinary, annoying, delightful nuisance of a ratbag of a hoot of a kid ' and the boys grow close over the ensuing years. But after a terrible accident, Billy turns into a bird. He utterly believes it: and as his behaviour becomes increasingly worrying, Liam and Iris must find a way to stop their family flying apart.When extracts of Billy Bird won the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship, the judges said the project was 'inventive, joyful and beautifully written'. Ripe with playfulness, yet also unforgettably poignant, this novel will unstitch - and then mend - your heart several times over.