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On the very edge of nowhere, prospectors long ago found iron ore and mined it, and workers traveled from all over the world to settle and make their homes. It is against this historical backdrop that the characters in Rare Birds live out their desires and unfinished stories in the early summer of 1960.


Betty Larsen, raising her lover’s daughter on her own, waits impatiently for him to return. Skinny old Gertrude, who rounds the block headlong a dozen times a day, hears the bugs beneath the cut grass and the hysteria of a new season happening. And on the next block Nicky Marodi, just returned from the state hospital for the mentally ill, lurches along in his new freedom. It is the first day of summer vacation and the trees have blossomed in the brightest green.


Three neighborhood girls band together to explore an abandoned house, where they find mysteries in every room, half-packed boxes and blood perhaps, if it is blood, and the mementos of lives they try to imagine. But theirs is not the only mystery.


In fact, mysteries and secrets abound. Betty’s lover does not return. Gertrude suddenly experiences a longing she has never known and the girls encounter glints of magic that change each of them unexpectedly. Even in June. Even as a band of marauding teenage hoodlums invades their block and Nicky lands in jail and the old Italians tend their gardens, claiming the land as their own.


A luscious paean of a particular place and time, Rare Birds interweaves the stories of these odd and dear characters, who could not have guessed they would be so well remembered.

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"A lot can happen in

11 days [in this] quirky, charming town portrait. 

A light and loving reimaging

of a bygone era."

                                                      Kirkus Reviews

May 15, 2017 




"Kathleen Novak’s

second novel, Rare Birds,

is a lovely slice-of-life work. Novak has a gently

elegant writing style

and an ear for dialogue

that help to make Rare Birds a real treat."

                                    FOREWORD Magazine July/August 2017



"Novak's pleasant and 

transportive novel paints 

a still life of a simpler time." 


Publisher's Weekly 

September 1, 2017 



"Novak offers her 1960 

Hibbing with real fondness. 

Here, she is saying, take this 

moment and relish it." 


Minneapolis Star Tribune 

June 28, 2017 




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