Cages

Sylvia Torti

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Schaffner Press Soft­cover $16.95 (302pp) 978-1-943156-18-4

This quiet novel ex­plores the lit­tle-tra­versed ground of bird­song and the sci­ence of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Sylvia Torti’s Cages is a thought-pro­vok­ing novel about the com­plex­ity of bird­song and how it par­al­lels hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion, re­lated with an ar­dent nar­ra­tive voice and a stu­dious tone.

Set in Utah at a univer­sity, the novel fo­cuses on three char­ac­ters: David, a pro­fes­sor study­ing bird­song; Re­becca, his young, at­trac­tive lab as­sis­tant; and An­ton, a post­doc­toral stu­dent from South Ty­rol. Cages ad­dresses how mem­ory and lan­guage are linked, and also looks at an­i­mal re­search, an­i­mal cru­elty, and how birds learn their songs.

David is in­volved in a com­pli­cated love tri­an­gle with his long­time part­ner, Sarah, and his friend and men­tor, Ed. David turns memories and ab­sences over in his mind to un­der­stand why there’s new dis­tance in his re­la­tion­ships. Their pasts are re­vealed in snip­pets, al­low­ing the nar­ra­tive space and time to make David’s emo­tional process, and his in­ter­ac­tions with An­ton and Re­becca, clear.

David’s memories re­veal a shared love of birds, though it sets them all in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Ed trav­els to trop­i­cal lo­ca­tions, con­tin­u­ally ex­pand­ing his species list and sharp­en­ing his ear for bird­song, while David stays in Utah to study ze­bra finches and the neu­ro­science of lan­guage. His memories of Sarah are filled with spir­ited in­tel­lec­tual di­a­logues, but also re­veal the de­vel­op­ing fis­sures in their re­la­tion­ship.

Mean­while, Re­becca’s love of bird­song brings her to work with David—as well as to an af­fair with An­ton. Her in­ter­ests are tested as David and An­ton lose birds dur­ing surg­eries. An­ton han­dles his nos­tal­gia for home through his deep need for Re­becca. The lab be­comes a place of refuge for each char­ac­ter, though their pri­or­i­ties within it cre­ate dis­so­nance be­tween them. Their

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