The Hummingbird Sanctuary – Erin Zak

Damn, this book… Ever since I started reading Erin Zak’s books (I still have two of her earliest to read), she’s never failed to make me feel. Like, a lot. And that’s fantastic since as I keep saying, this is why I read, to feel.

As one character puts it, this book is about “a group of six women who are all clearly fighting battles inside themselves”. Over the course of a weekend, all their lives will change. Three of these women – Mabel, Judy, Sunny – are visiting the resort, The Hummingbird Sanctuary, which the other three – the main characters – own together.

First is Olive, a fifty-year-old widow, who imagined a resort geared toward women and got her best friends to help her turn the dream into reality. Eleanor, 47, has been in love with Olive for the fifteen years they’ve known each other, resigned to the idea that Olive is straight and not interested in her that way. To quote Hattie, the third best friend, “she’s such a Pisces (…) Artistic, funny, loves her naps, and will cut someone right out of her life if they become too much for her to handle”. At thirty-five, Hattie is the youngest of the three best friends and the only one who isn’t a complete mess, even though meeting Judy shatters her to some extent. But only so that she can build something new, something unexpected. She’s a Leo, she’s flamboyant, she likes to show off, she knows her worth. She’s also a Black woman surrounded by white women.

Three women – each strong, independent, vulnerable in her own way –, three journeys. And three romance arcs at once. And because there are three stories, all intertwined, Zak can break the rules, mix tropes, take her characters on all sorts of roads. Nothing is written in advance because yes, there’s romance, but there’s not only one romance. With two MCs, you know you’ll get a HEA or at least HFN. With three + three? Anything is possible.

All three MCs are fantastic, complex, flawed, exciting. Zak tells the story from each MC’s POV, in first person. And each voice is distinct, each character has a very recognizable personality. When I had to put the book down mid-chapter and picked it back up hours later, I never had any doubt about who was talking. They’re all different, unlikely friends in this way life has of bringing together people who, on paper, shouldn’t fit but are actually perfect for one another. Among other things, these three are tied by their shared grief over losing their mothers. Zak’s The Road Home was never far from my thoughts, this story feels like what happens after.

I feel like I say this often too but I love when authors write their books in the same universe, even if all they do is mention a place or a person from a former book. There are a few Easter eggs here that made me feel at home right from the start.

Despite a few things that escaped proofreading in the ARC I read – a character has two different last names, 2021 is mentioned even though everything else is in 2022… – and that were hopefully fixed in the final version, despite the instalove that I chalked up to the place being magical (which it is, in a non-paranormal way), my heart says this book deserves 5 stars. And I tend to follow my heart, at least when it comes to books.

5-stars

The Hummingbird Sanctuary @ IndieBound / Bookshop.org / amazon

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