Songbirds and Stray Dogs

Fiction - Southern
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 11/03/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Meagan Lucas is the author of the Southern Literary Fiction novel Songbirds and Stray Dogs. Her short work has appeared in: The Santa Fe Writer’s Project, The New Southern Fugitives, Still: The Journal, and The Blue Mountain Review among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she won the 2017 Scythe Prize for Fiction. Taylor Brown says Meagan is: “a brave new voice in Southern Fiction,” and Steph Post describes Songbirds and Stray Dogs as a “stunning, startling novel.” Meagan teaches English Composition at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and is the Fiction Editor at Barren Magazine. She lives with her husband and children in Hendersonville, NC. Read more, or connect with Meagan on Social Media, here:

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Songbirds and Stray Dogs by Meagan Lucas is a Southern fiction novel that revolves around two characters who have both found themselves in situations that feel impossible, particularly at the tender early twenty-something ages. Jolene has been smacked down by life since her earliest childhood, abandoned and orphaned (and made to feel a burden about it), bullied, taken advantage of by a man who saw her as a prize, and tossed to the curb by literally everyone she knows in her time of greatest need. Chuck is an uncle who didn't expect to become a father-figure, but he's forced to take care of his nephew Cash and find a way to protect his sister—a task that is hindered when he helps a woman he doesn't know in a parking lot, offering a ride to a pregnant, vulnerable, and hopeless Jolene.

Songbirds and Stray Dogs is immediately engrossing and Meagan Lucas does an excellent job in creating a narrative that pulls a reader in and holds them there. Jolene is well developed as a character, with a growth in her almost immediately as she transitions from naivete into palpable desperation, which inevitably turns to strength. It's a natural progression that doesn't feel rushed; a fitting attribute in a storyline where the South is as much of a character as Jolene and Chuck are. Nothing moves quickly in Lucas' depiction of the Bible Belt, where ideas and progress are hindered by outdated principles. This is a really great book with a solid, heartache of a story. I enjoyed every moment of it.

K.C. Finn

Songbirds and Stray Dogs is a work of fiction set in the American south and was penned by author Meagan Lucas. Written for adults due to its explicit use of violence and strong language, plus some reference to sexual assault, this harrowing interpersonal drama introduces us to the protagonist, Jolene, who is abandoned by her mother when aged eight. Escaping the clutches of an addicted parent leaves Jolene in the care of a somewhat unfeeling aunt whom she can never impress, and when Jolene falls pregnant through no cause of her own, her life takes an even worse turn. What follows, however, is the tale of turning a life around at rock bottom, and discovering what a person is really made of.

Author Meagan Lucas comes out of the gate swinging with an emotional powerhouse in her debut tale of life, loss and finding your pack out in the big wide world. The central character Jolene is far from stereotypical despite the set up of her traumatic childhood, and the behaviors and beliefs she picks up during her upbringing are highly relatable and well-conceived as part of the central plot. An impressive quality of the novel is the way that every detail gels together, from the juxtaposing qualities of southern hospitality to the alienation and isolation which Jolene feels as a core part of her personality. In a world at odds with who she is and what she feels, Songbirds and Stray Dogs gives us Jolene’s struggle as a source of undeniable hope. A highly recommended read.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Meagan Lucas writes a tragic story of abandonment and abuse in Songbirds and Stray Dogs. As a young child, Jolene’s drug-addicted mother leaves her on her Aunt Rachel’s doorstep. Orphaned, ridiculed by peers, Jolene becomes a loner. After graduation, a local bad boy takes an interest in her. Longing for love and a family, Jolene begins to believe in a better life. Her make-believe future dissolves when Jolene becomes pregnant. Having no interest in marriage or a family, Jolene’s boyfriend leaves her. Embarrassed by her condition, Aunt Rachel, a devout churchgoer, kicks Jolene out. Pregnant, weary, and homeless, Jolene leaves the only home she has ever known. When a nice man offers her a ride, she accepts. One act of seeming kindness turns into a nightmare. Running scared, Jolene’s path collides with Chuck Hannon. Jolene and Chuck, two lost souls, strive to rescue each other from their heartbreaking pasts.

Songbirds and Stray Dogs, written by Meagan Lucas, portrays the collateral damage of drug addiction. Those who love the addict become victims of their self-sabotaging obsession. Although the culture of the South plays a part in the story, the setting of the narrative could take place anywhere. Sadly, the effects of drug abuse stretch far and wide; it does not care where you live. The victimization of the main characters takes center stage as the story unfolds. Jolene and Chuck are brought together through a series of tragic circumstances. At a crossroads in their lives, being chased and haunted by bad decisions and the betrayal of loved ones, Jolene and Chuck’s lives intersect. Even though they are victims, they still search for the good in others and dare to hope for the best, making them a dynamic character duo. As the protagonists, they evolve and become stronger because of one another. However, the bond between Jolene and Cash is the most touching. These two “stray dogs” forge a bond due to unfortunate similarities. Songbirds and Stray Dogs does not have an anticipated traditional ending. However, within the cacophony of despair, it does allow for moments to hear the songbird’s hopeful song and the solace of knowing that those who are alone can be lonely together.