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ECW Press Fall 2020 Trade

Why Birds Sing
A Novel
By (author): Nina Berkhout


ECW Press - Toronto



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


Oct 06, 2020
$22.95 CAD


8.5in x 5.5 x 0.57 in | 0.68 lb

Page Count:

248 pages
ECW Press
Fiction: general and literary|Family life fiction
Red Deer Reads 2021, Long-listed Ottawa Book Award 2021, Short-listed
  • Short Description
A charming novel about a disgraced opera singer, her cancer-plagued brother-in-law, a temperamental parrot named Tulip, and a competitive whistling group called the Warblers.

After a very public onstage flameout, a disgraced opera singer is confronted with her crumbling marriage, a prickly and unexpected brother-in-law, and a cheeky parrot named Tulip — and she must learn to whistle her way through it all.

From the author of Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel The Gallery of Lost Species comes a charming, lively, and deeply felt story that is perfect for readers of Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness and Amy Jones’s We’re All in this Together.

When opera singer Dawn Woodward has an onstage flameout, all she wants is to be left alone. She’s soon faced with other complications the day her husband announces her estranged brother-in-law, Tariq, is undergoing cancer treatment and moving in, his temperamental parrot in tow. To make matters worse, though she can’t whistle herself, she has been tasked with teaching arias to an outspoken group of devoted siffleurs who call themselves the Warblers. Eventually, Tariq and his bird join the class, and Dawn forms unexpected friendships with her new companions. But when her marriage shows signs of trouble and Tariq’s health declines, she begins questioning her foundations, including the career that she has worked so hard to build and the true nature of love and song.

Sales and Market Bullets

  • Berkhout has been positively reviewed by the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Manhattan Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Quill & Quire, La Presse, Coup de Pouce, and W Network.

  • Berkhout’s previous work has been named an Indigo Best Book, Toronto Public Library Best Book, Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel, Kobo Best Book, CTV Favourite Read, W Network Must Read Book of the Month, a Quill & Quire Editor’s choice, a Renaud-Bray coup de cœur, and featured on CBC’s The Next Chapter.

  • Why Birds Sing is a charming, upmarket commercial novel that will appeal to readers of Amy Jones and makes for a perfect book club pick.

  • Book club questions will be available.


  • Fans of Nina’s previous novels or poetry

  • Fans of offbeat, character driven plots

  • Readers of commercial/literary fiction hybrids like We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones or Normal People by Sally Rooney

Promotional Plans

  • Key title for review in book trade publications

  • Author participation in literary festivals across North America

  • National and regional print review coverage: long lead, weeklies, and dailies

  • Consumer review focus: early ARC and influencer campaign

  • Featured title at Winter Institute, OLA, ALA, and other relevant bookseller and library shows

  • ARC giveaways through ECW Insiders, LibraryThing, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc.

  • Targeted bookseller and librarian outreach

  • Reading group/book club outreach

Nina Berkhout is the author of two previous novels: The Mosaic, which was nominated for the White Pine Award and the Ottawa Book Awards and named an Indigo Best Teen Book, and The Gallery of Lost Species, an Indigo and Kobo Best Book and a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel. Berkhout is also the author of five poetry collections, including Elseworlds, which won the Archibald Lampman Award. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, she now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

“Capturing the joy that’s brought through camaraderie and passion, Why Birds Sing is an inspiring novel focused on the power of connections.” — Foreword Reviews

“A bratty parrot, a group of whistlers, an opera singer who doesn’t sing — it’s impossible not to be charmed by the characters who inhabit Nina Berkhout’s Why Birds Sing. But this novel offers so much more than just a loveable, quirky cast of misfits, and Berkhout writes with an uncommon compassion and an uncanny understanding of what it means to be human. Why Birds Sing is an ode to the families we choose, and the love that chooses us (whether we want it to or not.) This is a beautiful novel full of humour, warmth, sorrow, and above all, music.” — Amy Jones, author of We’re All In This Together and Every Little Piece of Me

“An exuberant novel about the possibilities of song and community. Told with tenderness, Why Birds Sing explores life’s unexpected connections and the ways we care for and protect the people we love. Above all, Nina Berkhout reminds us that a life crisis is also a bridge, like the break in a song, carrying us past one part of our life and into the future. Like any great opera, it’s packed with a vibrant cast — star-crossed lovers, travelling whistlers, and one unforgettable bird.” — Claire Tacon, author of In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo

“I really loved this book for its quiet grace, subtle humour and its quirky cast of characters … Nina Berkhout has written a gorgeous, multi-layered novel that illustrates the beauty that can be revealed when the collapsing of one life leads to the building of another.” — Urban Info Girl blog

“The novel is both fun and funny … Readers looking for a fun and engrossing story will find Nina Berkhout delivers with plenty of finesse and sharp attention to detail — in the realms of opera, birdsong, and the little complications of everyday life.” — The Fiddlehead

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