The Bird Woman

The Bird Woman

Kerry Hardie

Pub date
B Format 129x198mm
384 pages
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Book Overview

The much anticipated second novel from prize-winning Irish poet and novelist, Kerry Hardie.

‘The Bird Woman’ is a moving account of two marriages, a gift that feels like a curse, and the freedom that lies on the far side of family or group identity.

Ellen McKinnon, red-haired, clairvoyant, fiercely independent, finds her marriage, her health, her sanity threatened when she ‘sees’ the death of a man in a bomb attack before it has really occurred. Terrified by what’s happening to her, she leaves her home, her tribe, her husband, to live with a man she barely knows in Southern Ireland. There she strives to live a normal life in a different culture, to be accepted by her husband’s family and friends, to learn a new way of living. Though determined to suppress her ‘gift’ at any cost, with the birth of her children the clairvoyance changes and broadens into a power to heal. Slowly the rumours spread and the sick seek her out, yet she turns them away from her door.

Her husband and her closest friend demand that she question her right to suppress her remarkable powers. Reluctantly she accepts her fate, and begins her work as a healer. But the personal cost is high, and this work begins to damage her most intimate relationships. When news of the final illness of her long-estranged mother forces her return to her native city, everything falls apart for her and she finds there’s no safe ground beneath her feet.

About the author

Kerry Hardie was born in 1951 and went to school in Bangor, Northern Ireland. She has worked for the BBC in Belfast and for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She is the author of one previous novel, ‘Hannie Bennet's Winter Marriage’, and four books of poetry, ‘A Furious Place’, ‘Cry for the Hot Belly’, ‘The Sky Didn't Fall’ and ‘The Silence Came Close’. She lives in County Kilkenny with her husband, Sean.


  • Praise for ‘The Bird Woman’:
  • ‘Keenly observed, this atmospheric tale has eloquence and a lyrical quality.’Irish Independent
  • ‘“The Bird Woman” is Ellen’s story, and within its fine and meaningful framework it’s essentially an account of domestic life, with plenty of sex, scope for betrayal and misunderstanding, family relations, clashes of culture and viewpoint.’Irish Times
  • ‘an exploration of love and the nature of exile you will find hard to put down.’Nottingham Evening Post
  • ‘haunting, highly emotional second novel.’Yorkshire Evening Post
  • ‘This is a beautiful novel, well written and absorbing.’Tonic Magazine
  • ‘beautiful, singing prose…This moving exploration of her struggle for identity intrigues from start to finish.’The Sainsbury’s Magazine
  • ‘deeply moving and beautifully executed’Western Daily Press
  • Praise for ‘Hannie Bennet’s Winter Marriage’:
  • ‘Kerry Hardie provides us with a heroine whose claim on a reader’s heart is both aching and relentless.’ Alice Sebold, author of ‘The Lovely Bones’
  • ‘Kerry Hardie’s startling prose unfolds a story that is part painting, a portrait of the enigma of human feeling that moves to its conclusion as subtly as the dark season that is its setting.’ Rachel Cusk, author of ‘The Lucky Ones’ and ‘In the Fold’
  • ‘Kerry Hardie is an Irish poet, and her first novel is poetic and very Irish. Set in rural Waterford, whose landscape, rhythms and populace are lyrically evoked, it tells a peculiarly Irish story – rambling, eccentric, slow to unfold and strangely unsettling.’ Carla McKay, Daily Mail
  • ‘A masterly work by one of Ireland’s most talented poets that succeeds in making a seemingly unlikeable character – a middle-aged, thrice-married, chain-smoking man-hunter with a creepy and viscious teenage son – both vulnerable and appealing.’ Economist