Book Review: A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur

A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur is the sixth and last book in the #FemmeMarchFest challenge that I’d taken up for the month of March. This Instagram challenge was held in honor of International Women’s Day. This challenge means that all of March, I read only books written by woman authors, with one exception. And I must say I was successful.

It’s been an awesome month filled with awesome reads. And I’m glad I took it up. What’s more, I added a book to the list (in line with the female author caveat). So I not only read the 6 books that I hoped I’d read, but also a 7th one in addition to the ones I’d plotted out.

A Charm of Finches is the second in the Venery series – a detail that escaped me until it was too late and I had committed to reviewing it. This book is a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So I started with the hope that I could keep up, despite not reading the first in the series, and that I’d still like A Charm of Finches.

It turns out I needn’t have worried at all. The book works like a charm even as a standalone novel. It is such a good book that I find it to be important in this time and age. There are plenty of sensitive topics in there – those that need to be told and discussed, now most of all. I might even go back and read it again someday. And that is saying something.

There are two parallel tracks as A Charm of Finches starts. While one is of teenager Geronimo ‘Geno’ Caan, the other is of clinical psychologist and art therapist Steffen ‘Stef’ Finch and ex-escort Javier ‘Jav’ Landes. Each has their own sad story to tell. Each has their own crosses to bear.

Geno is the victim of a child pornography racket, thanks to his brother Carlos ‘Carlito’ Caan. Carlos, once he sees what is done to Geno, hangs himself at the scene where the racket is busted. The man responsible for this escapes, leaving Geno scarred for a long time to come.

Stef meets Jav at the bagel shop that his stepsister and stepfather work. He is one of the best art therapists at the Exodus Project and works with sexual assault survivors. Jav has kept his writer pseudonym under wraps so far. They hit it off immediately and what follows is a sweet and passionate relationship that manages to raise some ‘awww’s and some jealous eyebrows.

Each has a heavy past, but will it catch up with them and interfere in what they are trying to build? Will Geno be able to let go of his past torture and get past his present mental torture? How will the paths of Geno, Stef, and Jav cross? Will all of them, each at his own degree of pain and mental chaos, be able to find peace within themselves or with another?

A Charm of Finches, like I’ve mentioned before, is an important book. It tells us from the perspective of men that they get defiled too. By filthy people with filthy thoughts. And there are not many people who would take them seriously. That is the saddest part of life. This book refreshed in my mind a lot of things that I knew but probably pushed it to the back of my mind.

We’ve grown up thinking that men are supposed to be strong. They cannot cry. They cannot whine. They have to put on a brave face. But like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TEDx Talk, which is also now a book called We Should All Be Feminists, we do a great disservice to men by thumping down millennia of expectations on their shoulders. Men have their insecurities, too. Only, if they make them known, they are branded a wimp and what not.

The biggest reason I’m glad I picked this book is the new perspective that it gave me. It was like taking off the last of the rose-tinted glasses and looking at the world in a clearer manner. The other glasses, which had come off one by one earlier, lay in a pile, shunned and neglected for good measure.

A Charm of Finches has poetically beautiful writing. Suanne Laqueur has done a brilliant job in this book. My biggest concern was how I’d react to a gay love story. Usually, when we think ‘gay love story’, we think raunchy. We think it is for someone with a perverted mind. But why does that have to be? Suanne Laqueur shows you how it’s supposed to be written. She shows you a whole different angle – one that accuses you of generalization and stomps on the head of it.

Men are seen as self-confident and cocky, but they are human, too. They can get insecure. They can have their down days, too. Why is it that they shouldn’t have to have their own cocoon to retreat into? It isn’t wrong. It is only natural, given our human instincts. And when men do it, they shouldn’t be judged. Not anymore.

I am a huge fan of analogies – especially those that have the power to bring tears to my eyes or even make my stomach clench with uneasiness. And A Charm of Finches, so devastating in its description of sexual assault of men, has a lot of them. This is why I like the book so much. Oh, and its humor. And sarcasm.

“What’s your expectation?”

“Mine?”

“No, the guy standing behind you.”

The best part of any book is when it is connected perfectly from beginning to end. Everything has an alibi. Characters that appear out of nowhere refresh your memory with a single line and you go, “Oh, yeah!” A Charm of Finches is one such book. It is raw, emotional, and realistic in the truest sense of the word. It teaches so much about trust and life in general. It is beautiful, it is heartbreaking, it is hopeful.

And I’m glad I picked it up.

I’d suggest you read it, too. Because who knows when such a book might come out again. [No pun intended.] Even then, I think, maybe never.

 Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Goodreads.

Click on the image below (my Amazon Affiliate link) to buy A Charm of Finches:

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