That night, a bright little bird flew high overhead. Each beat of its wings made a patch of the stars flicker out, and another made them flicker back on.
In a small town called Allora, where the houses are painted in beautiful colours and fish fly out of the sea, Alberto lives in a house on the top of the hill. Originally a carpenter, he is forced to become a coffin maker when a plague sweeps through the town, taking with it his wife and three children.
Fast forward to thirty years later (where the rest of the book takes place), and Alberto's quiet coffin-making life is interrupted by the arrival of a boy and a bird into his home. Presuming him to be an orphan, Alberto lets the boy (Tito) and the bird (Fia, who is no ordinary bird) visit, sharing his meals with them everyday. When a truth about Tito's past is revealed, Alberto realises it is up to him to keep Tito out of harm's way.
This is a wonderful book: beautiful, poignant, and full of friendship and love, it reminded me of The Island at the End of Everything (always a good thing in my opinion). Gentle but powerful, it is a magical read from start to finish. If I hadn't started this book while on my lunch break, I would have easily refused to move until I had finished (and truth be told, I was tempted). A story of courage and believing in the seemingly impossible, this is a must read, especially for those who love a touch of magical realism.