rare bird: a memoir of loss and love


If there is one sentence I can say to sum up how I truly feel about Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love, it would be this:

This book is a gift.

And I will always feel like I cannot do this book justice in a review.


Just over three years ago, Anna was an ordinary mom with two children. Then one day, just over three years ago, Anna’s life was turned upside down when she lost her 12-year-old son, Jack, in a freak flash flood.

That summed up all I knew about Anna’s story before I read her book.

What I didn’t realize was how much I would be changed by reading Anna’s story, how much her journey through grief and pain and faith would comfort me. How it would make me a bigger believer in forces at work that are larger than all of us.

rare bird book review

Rare Bird is not meant to be a sad book. There are moments that made me tear up, moments that made me sob, and moments that left me heartbroken as Anna and her family grapple with the fact that life must indeed go on after losing her son. But as one makes their way through the book, Anna’s journey is peppered with surprises, signs, and incredible wisdom. I came away in awe of the unshakable faith in God that Anna describes Jack having. I came away comforted by the closeness that Anna felt with God as she grieved.

“It’s about anger and profound sadness, but also about a flicker of hope that comes from the realization that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than our own skin. It’s about His being real and showing up in the pain.”  — Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Rare Bird

Whether you’ve suffered a tragic loss or not, Anna’s words are relatable and her voice real. Because Rare Bird is not a story of a little boy dying. It is the journey of a family who endures one of the most difficult things imaginable and how they come together, fall apart, and live through this terrible time. Throughout the book, Anna is incredibly honest and transparent about her fears, her doubts, and even her faith, and how each of these plays a part in her tumultuous trek through grief.

But best of all, Rare Bird leaves the reader filled with hope in the knowledge that our loved ones are still with us long after they’ve gone. 

Rare Bird is a gift.


You can find Rare Bird at the following retailers:

Barnes and Noble
Convergent Books

You can find Anna at her blog, An Inch of Gray.


I received an advanced reader copy of Rare Bird for review. All opinions are my own.

Join the Conversation


  1. I have to be honest, I have trouble reading books like these.
    As a mom. it takes me to a place that is so hard to imagine.
    I feel like that makes me selfish.
    Maybe I will give it a try…..someday.

    By the way, I love your new header.

    1. I have a hard time with it too, Kari. Sometimes I feel like I selfishly ignore all the bad stuff when I should be helping. But Anna’s book has so many facets of hope. It’s beautiful.

  2. This book is a gift. And you’re right, it’s hard to describe. You did a nice job with this review.

    Also? I like your blog design changes. (:

  3. This is a truly loving review, Leigh Ann. And I know what you mean about how all the words can’t seem to justify just what a gift Rare Bird is.

  4. I have to admit, I’ve been avoiding it just a bit. It hurts so much to think about… but I love this review and I promise I’ll stop avoiding and accept the gift.

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