I don’t normally read memoirs but Love Life, with Parrots came highly recommended by a friend, so I thought I’d give it a try for something different.
The book covers the period between the end of Hanson’s first marriage and the early years of her second. Unfortunately, we never know for sure how many years that is.
What we do learn, in quite some detail, is that these are not easy years. Hanson struggles from one bad relationship to another, with each man having his own failings, some of them severe. While Hanson is never physically abused, she suffers a lot of emotional abuse which, combined with her low self-esteem (a legacy of her childhood), makes her struggles that much greater. On top of this, a car crash leaves her unable to work for over a year, suffering from both physical injuries and what today would be called post-traumatic stress.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking this must be an awfully depressing book, but what saves it—and Hanson—are her conures. These small (four ounce) parrots—first one, then two, eventually four—provide the unconditional love and affection that grounds her, and often frustrates, amazes, and entertains her and the reader. A perfect illustration is the story of the day 12-week-old Maggie, parrot #2, walked into the middle of a bowl to eat some of Hanson’s food. When Hanson told Maggie it’s customary in her household for parrots to perch on the edge of the bowl to eat, Maggie not only appeared to understand completely, she walked to the edge and never makes that mistake again!
Love Life has a happy ending. Hanson reconnects with Dennis, a friend from many years in the past, and they discover they’re right and ready for each other. Even better, not only does Hanson’s three-parrot flock accept him, they accept a new baby bird he picks out to join the family.
Hanson chose an unusual structure for her book: it has no chapters. Instead, it is broken up into many shorter, titled sections. While this certainly could invite the reader to put the book down for good, they sometimes provide a place to stop when the emotional intensity requires a bit of a break. Hanson’s personable writing style helps, too, especially in the more intense spots.
Memoir readers, especially those who like memoirs involving pets, will find this story challenging but engaging. And the happy ending doesn’t hurt a bit.