The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Date Read: June 14th 2016

Published: 2015

Publisher: Penguin Press

Pages: 304

The Star Side of Bird Hill

The Blurb

After their mother can no longer care for them, young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados to live with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.

When the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.


Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

I bought The Star Side of Bird Hill late last year for 2 reasons: I absolutely adored the super chic, sassy cover art (designed by an amazing contemporary Caribbean artist from Barbados – Sheena Rose) and I just had to support Naomi Jackson, as she’s an alum of Williams College – Middlebury’s (my alma mater) sister liberal arts school!

The Star Side of Bird Hill is a decent coming-of-age story that focuses on Barbadian-American sisters – Dionne (16 years old) and Phaedra (10 years old) as they learn new things about their family, culture and even themselves during their summer vacation in Bird Hill, Barbados. I really appreciated Jackson’s easy-going and descriptive writing style in this novel. Her vivid descriptions of Barbados definitely made this a great summer read! I felt as if I was with the characters during the lively carnival and on the sandy, pristine beaches against the backdrop of the serene sunsets. I could even hear the voices of both Dionne and Phaedra during their dialogues – that’s how thorough Jackson’s descriptions were!

But I kept wondering if The Star Side of Bird Hill was considered a YA (Young Adult) novel because it was surprisingly a heavy read. Tough issues like depression, mental illness, death, divorce, suicide, homosexuality, bi-cultural upbringing, Christianity, voodoo etc are all tackled in this book. I must say, Dionne and Phaedra’s grandma – Hyacinth, is the real MVP of this novel. I was in awe of her strength, courage and emotional stability given the series of unexpected, unfortunate incidents that occur at Bird Hill. It seemed as if Naomi Jackson was paying homage to the women of Bird Hill by showcasing the amazing strength the Barbadian women possess.

While reading, I sensed some similarities in this storyline to Haitian writer,  Edwidge Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory – even though Danticat takes the themes of mother-daughter relationships, depression, sexual assault and suicide up a notch! I wanted to gift one of my friends who is of Grenadian heritage with this book, as I initially thought she’d easily relate to Caribbean/Caribbean-American storyline, but I’ve been having second thoughts since the story becomes super depressing for a good 100 pages. I wasn’t really blown away by The Star Side of Bird Hill when I finished the book. I enjoyed how most incidents and issues were sort of resolved by the end, but The Star Side of Bird Hill is not more than 3.5 stars for me. I do look forward to whatever Naomi Jackson writes next though!

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.


Purchase The Star Side of Bird Hill on Amazon

15 thoughts on “The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

    1. Hahaa, really? I hope you end up liking it. Its more somber (as a summer read) than miserable though. But hey, those are both pretty subjective terms. I hope you enjoy the book in all its somberness 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm. Yeah, I enjoyed the writing style, just not the direction the book took. I didn’t expect it to be so somber lol. Some things were a bit far fetched for me too. But I eagerly await her next book! By the way, is this book considered YA?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I borrowed this book from the library and began reading it but realized it wasn’t my cup of tea. Still, I got a sense of Naomi Jackson’s talent and look forward to seeing what she writes, next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Melanie. Ummm…I guess it depends. We do get to see the importance of family and knowing the culture of your parents, effects of divorce, depression etc. But its generally a somber read :/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the cover too!
    Now that I think about it, I have never read a book either set in Barbados or about Barbadian Americans. Thanks for putting this one in my radar. I have a growing list of books set in different countries or from authors from different countries.

    There are plenty of YA books that touch upon difficult and heavy subjects. I think more books should! Those are my favorite kinds of books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Naz! Yes, def add this one! Apparently the book isn’t YA though. There are other Bajan writers too – Austin Clarke was one of the popular ones! Unfortuneately, he passed away last month :(. Check out his work if you can. I read (and reviewed) his childhood culinary memoir last year and it was pretty good 🙂


  3. I agree, the cover is well done and it’s the reason I looked at the book. I had it on my TBR for a while, but I took it off (Im not sure why). Maybe I’ll add it back and give it a read


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