top of page
Top of Blog
wine book pool summer .jpg
  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Bird Hotel

Narrator: Joyce Maynard

Audible Studios

ISBN: 978-1956763737

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing | Arcade

Publication Date: 05/02/2023

Format: e-book, hardcover and audio

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

Enter the magical world of La Llorona with New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard.

After a childhood filled with heartbreak, Irene, a talented artist, finds herself in a small Central American village where she checks into a beautiful but decaying lakefront hotel called La Llorona at the base of a volcano.

The Bird Hotel tells the story of this young American who, after suffering tragedy, restores and runs La Llorona. Along the way we meet a rich assortment of characters who live in the village or come to stay at the hotel. With a mystery at its center and filled with warmth, drama, romance, humor, pop culture, and a little magic realism, The Bird Hotel has all the hallmarks of a Joyce Maynard novel that have made her a a leading voice of her generation

The Bird Hotel is a big, sweeping story spanning four decades, offering lyricism as well as whimsy. While the world New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard brings to life on the page is rendered from her imagination, it’s one informed by the more than twenty years of which she has spent a significant amount of her time in a small Mayan indigenous village in Guatemala.

As the New York Times said, "[Maynard] has an unswerving eye, a sharply perked ear, and the ability to keep her readers hanging on her words." People Magazine said of her: "Maynard’s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch.”

My Review

A born-gifted master storyteller and long-time favorite author Joyce Maynard returns with her best yet— THE BIRD HOTEL. An eloquently written and fully immersive literary tale of the power of love and the magical world of La Llorona.

Set at a lakefront hotel in the beautiful fictional Central America area of La Esperanza at the edge of the lake and the base of a volcano, an extraordinary place of beauty and magic—Maynard's characters come alive on the page.

As the book opens, we meet a twenty-seven-year-old American female artist, Irene, about to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. She has encountered many tragedies in her life, from her mother's background, causing them to change their identities, move in with her grandmother, her death, and finally, the loss of her beloved husband and son due to a tragic accident. Everyone near her seems to die and leave her.

However, as fate would have it, she stepped away from the railing. She could not do it. But she could not go home again either. With a long journey, the help of strangers, and extensive travel, she winds up at La Llorona, later called The Bird Hotel.

From flashbacks to the 1970s, we learn of Irene's past. Her tragic childhood, teens, and her marriage and beyond. She was told at age ten no one must ever know her former identity. All she knew of death was to keep it a secret and soldier on. Her old name was Joan, and then her name was Irene.

It was paradise when she arrived at La Llorona, the most beautiful village and sight to behold, from the botanical gardens, magical plants, fireflies, and exotic birds. She wished she had brought her drawing pencils to capture this wild and fantastical garden.

She gets to know Leila, the owner, around sixty to seventy-five, with white hair, a fascinating woman, and a survivor. They become dear friends. She opens her home to Irene, and she begins to heal.

There is delicious food, wine, fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful scenery, and great conversations and stories from this wise woman, the guests, and her staff. Even though the property was falling apart, beauty is everywhere among the decay.

We also learn more about Leila, her fascinating story, and how she came to own this slice of heaven.

However, things have not always been perfect, and money is lacking. Like the Garden of Eve, this beautiful paradise also had serpents and scorpions. People were greedy and dishonest, and both Leila and Irene witnessed this firsthand.

As time passes, to Irene's surprise, the hotel is willed to her by Leila. She keeps the staff and uses the insurance money to renovate and restore the hotel. Along the way there are many obstacles.

We meet many intriguing characters arriving at the hotel, all with their own stories as they come and go along with the staff. The author keeps you glued to the pages with delicious food and wine, humor, pop culture, lots of drama, warm-hearted stories, and some wise life lessons.

Some to trust and some not. One special guest has secrets, but there is more to the story, and Irene's life comes full circle.

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Magical, transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric. I want to go there now!

A captivating exploration of the many ways relationships grow and adapt to time and trauma—making for a poignant meditation on the bonds of friendship. We cannot run from our problems, but time can heal our wounds through the kindness of others.

THE BIRD HOTEL is an ode to storytelling, fairy tales, and healing that can come while searching on the journey to happily ever after. From themes of grief, loss, survival, kindness, and friendship. When family may not always be blood-related.

Joyce Maynard is a highly gifted and lyrical novelist with a talent like no other. Thank you for sharing this story and your author's note/acknowledgments. I cannot imagine this story not being out in the world. It will touch so many lives. I learned much and found every page full of knowledge and energy.

Joyce's stories transport you to another time and place. The vivid descriptions, the lush descriptive, poetic writing, elegant storytelling, and her well-developed characters weave in and out of each vignette with their own stories of tragedy, loss, love, and second chances. I loved the titles of each section. A charming story that weaves mystery, intrigue, history, and fairy tales with a bit of romance.

THE BIRD HOTEL is a magical rare gem that is unforgettable. The characters linger long after the book is closed. Maynard is a master of tales, and her talent is fully displayed in this delightful story. A bittersweet story of loss, destiny, and the strings of love that bind us together across the years.

AUDIOBOOK: Joyce Maynard is an auto-audiobook pre-order/buy! Her narration is spellbinding. I wish she would come up with sleep meditation audios for my insomnia! I could listen to this audiobook over and over again. It will sweep you away.

Even though I had the e-book for bookmarking the many beautiful quotes, the audio is a must-buy and listen. I also purchased the hardcover copy for my home library. If you only read one book this year, THE BIRD HOTEL would be my top recommendation.

Listening/reading this book is like a wise woman or grandmother telling you a story sitting on the porch swing.

THE BIRD HOTEL is a powerful, emotionally moving, compelling, satisfying, and memorable tale of strong women survivors spanning four decades. I am a baby boomer and a year older than the author, so I love her stories and can appreciate this era. I adored the short chapters, and immensely loved Leila's macaroon story, Maribel, and Tom/Irene's story was the best. You care about the characters and the ending was priceless.

While the world New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard brings to life on the page is rendered from her imagination, it's one informed by the more than twenty years of which she has spent a significant amount of her time in a small Mayan indigenous village in Guatemala.

Thank you to #Skyhorse Publishing #Arcade for an ARC via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Also purchased the audiobook and hardcover.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

May 2023 Must-Read Books

Top Books of 2023


“In The Bird Hotel, Joyce Maynard imagines a glorious landscape where one broken woman, Irene, must lose herself in order to find the hope of survival. Although it’s Irene whose heart-stopping tale drives the narrative, this is also a rich ensemble novel about endurance, courage, healing, and the salvation of human generosity—the glittering, unexpected ways we save each other every day, despite all the reasons not to. Much more than just an expat novel filled with memorable characters of all stripes, The Bird Hotel is a careful love letter of discovery, and a reminder that life can provide the antidote to suffering if you’re open, patient, and you know where to look.”

—JEANINE CUMMINS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of American Dirt

"A touching novel about a mother who loses her child , a child who loses her mother, and how they find their way back from loss at The Bird Hotel. It’s a story about love and trust.”

—LINDA RONSTADT, author of Feels Like Home

"The Bird Hotel is [Maynard's] best novel yet . . . Told in short, snappy chapters, The Bird Hotel is just delightful. It’s filled with so many twists and turns that I could not see where the story was going to end."

—Maurice on Books

About the Author

Over her fifty-year career, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard has published hundreds of essays as well as eighteen books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the memoir At Home in the World and the novels To Die For and Labor Day, both adapted for film. Her novel, Count the Ways, was recently awarded the Grand Prix Literaire in France. Every winter for over two decades, Maynard has led the Lake Atitlan Memoir workshop, Write by the Lake, in Guatemala.







bottom of page