Comfrey, Wyoming: Birds of a Feather
Atmosphere Press (2021)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (8/2021)
“‘When a person you love so much dies, sometimes you must leave to live.’” – p. 147
Everyone has their demons, whether a wandering husband or a taste for too much alcohol, but ultimately “Comfrey, Wyoming: Birds of a Feather” by Daphne Birkmyer is a story of a mother’s love and the lengths she will go in her grief to renew life, the beauty of beginning again.
A girl from Germany never imagined she’d end up in Wyoming, of all places. But, Heidi does just that as she flees her career and life in New York with her son’s ashes, landing herself in a soup kitchen as their new chef. “Comfrey, Wyoming: Birds of a Feather” is a love story to Wyoming from the lens of a German female chef in America.
Author, Daphne Birkmyer, uses her characters to extract an emotional attachment from her readers. For instance, despite her cold personality, Heidi quickly becomes a beloved character when we are shown the fierce loyalty she has for, and from, her kitchen staff. Slowly the layers of Heidi’s onion are peeled back as we are shown her tender heart underneath the damage of losing her parents, her son, her homeland, and her husband. The beautifully sad story beneath Heidi’s exterior reminds us that family isn’t always blood.
Another unique aspect of “Comfrey, Wyoming: Birds of a Feather,” and this part of the United States in particular, is the heavy Native American presence. Birkmyer crafts nuanced supporting characters that blend seamlessly into Heidi’s life while contributing to the rich history and diversity of Wyoming and its culture. By giving readers Nara and her children, Birkmyer stays true to the region and spreads awareness to the intense, multi-generational presence of Native Americans in this part of the United States. With flashes of reservation life and an intriguing insertion of native tongue, it provides a cultural experience as much as an emotional one.
The beautiful, layered writing housed within “Comfrey, Wyoming: Birds of a Feather” provides not just inspiring characters but a unique cultural experience and lens within an oft forgotten part of the United States.