Acclaimed author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas Marie-Helene Bertino's Parakeet is a darkly funny and warm-hearted novel about a young woman whose dead grandmother (in the form of a parakeet) warns her not to marry and sends her out to find an estranged loved one.

The week of her wedding, The Bride is visited by a bird she recognizes as her dead grandmother because of the cornflower blue line beneath her eyes, her dubious expression, and the way she asks: What is the Internet?

Her grandmother is a parakeet. She says not to get married. She says: Go and find your brother.

In the days that follow, The Bride's march to the altar becomes a wild and increasingly fragmented, unstable journey that bends toward the surreal and forces her to confront matters long buried.

A novel that does justice to the hectic confusion of becoming a woman today, Parakeet asks and begins to answer the essential questions. How do our memories make, cage, and free us? How do we honor our experiences and still become our strongest, truest selves? Who are we responsible for, what do we owe them, and how do we allow them to change?

Urgent, strange, warm-hearted, and sly, Parakeet is ribboned with joy, fear, and an inextricable thread of real love. It is a startling, unforgettable, life-embracing exploration of self and connection.


"What is Parakeet about? It’s about an ambivalent bride. It’s about PTSD, grief, forgiveness, bad mothers, womanhood, monogamy and the nature of time itself."
—Bess Kalb, The New York Times Book Review

"Mournful, witty, and heartbreakingly honest."
—Seija Rankin and David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

“The fantastic infiltrates the story in overtly metaphoric ways . . . But Ms. Bertino establishes a rationale for the madness beyond matrimonial jitters . . . Like most trauma fiction, Parakeet becomes narrowly preoccupied by a single, all-defining moment that somehow both reconfigures the past and sets the course for the future . . . But unlike most books in the genre, the novel isn’t lugubrious, instead steering into the experience of absurdity with a recklessness that keeps you guessing.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with this hypnotic, semi-surrealist jewel of a book ever since I tore through a galley in the first two days of the new year . . . Strange in all the most wondrous ways, Parakeet is a dazzling hybridic work of riotous humor and aching pathos, a cold feet fantasia of outlandish and extraordinary proportions, and, above all else, an exquisitely written mediation on buried trauma and grief. I’ll bet good money that this shimmering, dreamlike novel is unlike any you’ve read before. A rare bird indeed."
Dan Sheehan, Lit Hub

Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino

  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2020

    New hardcover

    224 pages

1 N. Lombardy St.

Richmond, VA 23220


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