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Publisher's Summary

An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens - an exquisite, strange and beautiful debut for fans of Alice Sebold, Curtis Sittenfeld, Barbara Kingsolver and Audrey Niffenegger.

After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life. Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defences threaten to fall. Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother, and where does she go when the gardens are closed? Harry's purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something - or someone - who will root him more firmly to the earth.

Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.

©2017 Tor Udall (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A rich and intricate debut, at once subtle and powerful, intent and reflective, lyrical and visceral, expertly cultivating an abundance of life from all that remains after death." (James Hannah, author of The A to Z of You and Me)
"An extraordinary, enchanting book. Writing as fine and precise as a botanical sketch, gorgeously arty themes, powerful yet fragile imagery and a brilliant story - this is a book to love and treasure." (Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A Waste Of Time

This book had such unbelievable characters that it was impossible for me to stay interested and engaged. The dialogue and strange behavior exhibited by the characters boggled the mind. The "mystery" wasn't enough to hold my attention. I liked the idea of a story about five lives that intersect over a year at Kew Gardens but the follow through needed much more thought and planning. For me, the writing was so poorly done I was mystified by how this was even published. Juvenile, unlikable and ridiculous. I hate wasting my time on unedited rough drafts.

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 07-09-17

Not What I Expected, but It Had It's Positive Poin

I can't quite explain why I downloaded this audiobook as it's just not the kind of thing I usually enjoy. Maybe it was the fact that it interweaves the stories of five different characters (a frame to which I'm partial), or maybe it was because it's set mainly in Kew Gardens, a place that I loved visiting. Had I paid more attention to comparisons to Audrey Nifffenegger and Curtis Sittenfield, I probably would have passed on it. Tor Udall's first novel focuses on the interrelated stories of five people, each of them drawn to Kew, and each of them suffering from some kind of loss. There's Jonah, a recently widowed musician/music teacher; Chloe, an emotionally damaged young artist and master of origami; Milly, a little girl who seems to wander aimlessly through Kew with no parents in sight; Harry, an introverted gardener who seems to trust no one; and Audrey, Jonah's wife, whose life has been blighted by a series of miscarriages. Audrey is the link that eventually brings them all together. Initially, I thought the book was relying a lot on flashbacks, but I came to realize that only some of the characters were on "this side"--or, perhaps more rightly, that some of them had not yet let go and passed over.

As stated, this isn't exactly my usual fare, but there were some things to admire. Udall did create empathy for each of the suffering characters, and there are glorious descriptions of Kew through the seasons and the effects of nature--particularly plants--on the human psyche. This line from Amazon's blurb may say it best: "This novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things."

3.5 out of 5 stars.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Buck
  • FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, US
  • 01-28-18

Breathtaking imagery

A tantalizing story, impossible to stop listening to. Not the kind of story I would usually choose, but one I have shared with all my reading friends

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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beautiful & mismerizing..a jewel of a story. Brava

narrator very good..lent a light touch without dropping the rythm or threads. very important !

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Bennell
  • 12-20-17

Interesting story with poor production

What did you like best about A Thousand Paper Birds? What did you like least?

The raw grief felt by Jonah is expertly explored and really draws the reader in at the start.
I did find the story of Mille slightly clumsy and it detracted from the overall narative.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Gavin Osborn?

My main issue with this audobook is the non-existant quality control on the narration. Gavin Osborn does an ok job but his accents are poorly realised and very niave.

One thing that annoyed me was that there is no pause between the end of a section - the chapters appear to be broken into sections or sub-chapters. So The narrator completes the end of a thought provoking or sensetive section and without pausing for breath launches into a whole new sub-chapter.

Also at one point the narrator mistakenly says "minute" as in small rather than "minute" as in 60 seconds, and there is a word which appears to have been changed but rather than replacing the existing word, both words are spoken at the same time. Clearly the person doing quality control on this audiobook did not actually listen to it all the way through which is inexcusable really.

Was A Thousand Paper Birds worth the listening time?

It is just about worth the listening time - I think it would work better as a reading book rather than an audio book.

Any additional comments?

This audiobook costs a decent a=moutn of money and the producers should respect that and take the time and effort to produce something of the quality expected by the purchaser

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • yvonne tomlin
  • 09-13-17

A triumph of a book

A story of loss, grief, love and letting go. The author is a master wordsmith. Heartbreaking and uplifting. A must read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Regan
  • 05-02-18

Slow starter , but well worth the effort

As each character ‘a story develops ,showing where they touched each other I found myself more engaged , a beautifully written story of loss and our impact on those we encounter.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rachel Redford
  • 01-10-18

Loss and grief folded in love and mystery


Music teacher Jonah is stricken with a debilitating sense of loss after the death in a car crash which seems to have been suicide of his beloved wife Audrey, who was herself mired in grief following miscarriages. It sounds depressing, but Jonah’s aching ‘corrosiveness of absence’ is created with such sharp insight and in such delicate poetic language that it is almost uplifting as he struggles to re-join the everyday world, wishing that he had recorded Audrey’s breathing just so that he could hear it again.

Kew Gardens, loved by all the characters, with its carefully nurtured trees and green promise of regeneration forms the backdrop to their intricately interwoven lives. The main human focus is the poignant love relationships between Jonah and his wife, and between widowed Jonah and Chloe, the origami artist who has the power to heal him. This is so brilliantly created that for me it would have been enough and the magic realism element of the other eventually connected characters didn’t enhance it.

The origami-like folding and re-folding of the narratives is complex and clever but at times clogged and confused. Perhaps that is because audio may not be the best medium for this particular book, even though the narrator is impressively in tune throughout. If I had been reading rather than listening I’d have re-read a striking sentence or phrase to fully appreciate its words, emotion or cadence, or a section of magic realism to pick up more clues.
This is Tor Udall’s first novel (not her first non-fiction work) and a great deal of intelligent ideas, observation and tenderness had gone into the complexities of its writing.

It deserves to be listened to – and read.