Many years ago, Terry Tempest Williams was left all of her mother’s journals with the promise that Williams wouldn’t look at the books until after after her mother was gone. After her mother died, Williams opened the journals and discovered that they were empty. Shelves and shelves of them. Blank.
When Women Were Birds begins with the empty journals, and what follows are, as the subtitle says, fifty-four meditations on voice. But what’s really interesting about When Women Were Birds isn’t what’s said but what isn’t said. 
Grief writing is practically a genre. It has a form, expectations, tropes. We expect reflections on what has been lost, anger, depression, deliverance, but like Williams’ mother’s journals, none of the things we expect are in this book. When Women Were Birds is a desert book, a post-grief ecology, an answer to what comes after grief is through and when the tears have run dry and the only battle left to fight is against silence that fills the place where someone you love used to be. 
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