Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite
On the Way to Birdland by Frank Morelli is an enjoyable coming-of-age story that is deftly written. Cordell Wheaton feels like living in a shell after his brother Travis goes off without warning. He has had one of his habitual quarrels with his father. Now, sixteen-year-old Cordell feels empty, unsure of how to cope with life without his brother in High Point, North Carolina. On the night that Travis’ addiction got the better of him and he disappeared with his saxophone, something died in Cordell. When his father eventually falls sick, the young boy sets out on a mission to reunite the family. His plan is simple: bring his brother to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. Perhaps that will remind Travis of his dream and who he once was. Cordell has only forty bucks in his pocket, but he is off on an adventure that will shake him psychologically and bring him face-to-face with himself. Will he succeed in finding Travis and bringing the family back together?
Told in an engrossing first-person narrative voice that reflects Cordell's moods, streams of consciousness, thoughts, and reflections, this story explores the inner world of a young man when the one person he looks up to walks away. Travis has always told him that there was more to life than High Point, and it is interesting to discover how he learns this truth. Character development is finely accomplished, and Frank Morelli explores the psyche of Cordell in a way that is brilliant and illuminating, unveiling someone at their lowest point. The descriptions are terrific, and I particularly enjoyed the way the author talks about the hollowness the young boy experiences: “sometimes it grows heavy; sometimes it suffocates; and most times, I want to escape.” The writing is lyrical with a musical feel that touches the reader in the deep recesses of their heart. Frank Morelli writes with ingenuity about family dynamics, allowing the relationships to unfold naturally before readers and using them to infuse the writing with humanity and realism. On the Way to Birdland offers a great reading experience, with an introspective young main character who feels how most of us have felt in our lowest moments; it is deft, nuanced, and balanced.