In Search of the Owl

A father's death begins a quest for a deeper understanding...of life.

Non-Fiction - Grief/Hardship
300 Pages
Reviewed on 02/24/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

A memoir that deals with profound loss, Jean E. Sidinger’s In Search of the Owl reveals how the author finds renewal through the wonders of nature that she keenly observes together with her late father, ecologist Levi L. Mohler. As this story opens with Sidinger visiting her father at a retirement center, you get a brief but concrete idea of the strong bond that exists between father and daughter, and you cannot help but feel a pang in your heart when they discuss death at the end. She had lost her mother before, and now she struggles to find the optimism and strength that sustained her in the company of her dad. She finds them in the form of a great horned owl—the representation of her spirit of which her father is very much a part. Her journey is not to discover an owl, but to understand the bird’s metaphorical wisdom as it relates to life’s triumph over death.

In Search of the Owl goes much beyond talking about dealing with grief and gradually transitioning to embracing what life has to offer. Jean E. Sidinger’s narration is poetic as well as evocative of nature’s imagery, and this reflects her genuine love for nature. As people deal with loss in different ways, In Search of the Owl is an inspiring memoir that opens your eyes to the great questions of life and where you can find answers if you know where and how to look. It behooves you to reconnect with nature and teaches you to appreciate the people that matter in your lives. This memoir can similarly fall under self-help and inspirational categories, as it illustrates an example of staying optimistic in a world drowning in different noises. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to get back on track with life.

Tammy Ruggles

In Search of the Owl by Jean E Sidinger is a poignant memoir that brings help and healing to the author as well as her readers. The loss of a parent can be devastating, but sometimes a book comes along that can help you through the grieving process. The loss still hurts, but just knowing that you aren't alone in your grief and that others understand and can relate, brings some solace. The author finds healing as she connects to something she and her father both shared and that is nature, as her father was Levi L Mohler, an ecology and wildlife management pioneer. Even though this is a personal journey for the author, its message is universal and can help readers cope with loss.

The author uses nature and the bond with her father to bring us a touching, inspirational source of understanding and eventual acceptance in the face of personal loss. What I especially like is how she begins her story when her father is still alive, giving us a chance to get to know him as she did. It's clear they shared a special bond, and in a way, their story could have you thinking about the bond you may or may not share with your own father. Sidinger's poetic writing and the images help to create a memorial to the child/parent bond, and the bond with nature. The author invites you to travel the seasons with her as she searches for meaning and the owl, but it won't be her journey alone. It will be yours too. Her detailed, vivid imagery will enliven you and deepen your appreciation for nature as well. Goodbye seems to be the hardest word, but In Search of the Owl by Jean E. Sidinger makes saying it a little easier.

Lesley Jones

When Jean E Sidinger's elderly father was recovering from pneumonia, his physical therapist made a promise to him, “When you are stronger, I’ll take you to Hulls Gulch nature reserve and we’ll go in search of the owl." That was a promise that would never be fulfilled, as shortly afterward her father passed away. The pain of losing someone close to you is something most people have experienced. Jean had already lost her mother years previously from dementia. But when her father, Levi L Mohler, an innovative ecologist passed away at the age of 94, it left an unimaginable gaping hole of grief that led her on a year-long journey of self-discovery; In Search of the Owl. As Jean struggled to deal with the overwhelming sense of loss, she turned to their shared passion for the natural world to help with the many stages of grief. Jean discovered that nature not only gave her a soothing inner peace but also taught her some valuable lessons around the natural cycle of life and death.

For anyone who has experienced losing someone close, this beautiful memoir will give you much-needed comfort and peace. The opening chapters where Jean E Sidinger and her father spent quality time together before he passed were extremely emotional and I resonated completely with her pain. Jean relayed the rollercoaster of emotions of grief perfectly, from devastation, numbness, a dull ache to a deep longing. I loved how Jean passed down her father's words of wisdom around nature to her grandson, Samuel, and their shared experience with the magpie was heart-warming. In Search of the Owl is filled with important life lessons, such as how we should celebrate the life of loved ones and ensure their memory does not fade. This was highlighted on their first Christmas without him when Jean read her father's blessing. Jean also makes a very important point of how nothing remains stagnant, change is constant and inevitable. This quote from the book sums up the wonderful message of this memoir: 'When all is said and done, life is at the core of all we value. For without life, there is no love, no experience of health, happiness, or success, no relationships to cherish, no trees nor birds nor flowers, and no next generation.'