When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky

Written by Margaret Verble
Review by Kate Braithwaite

Two Feathers, commonly referred to simply as Two, is a horse-diver in a 1920s zoo and family entertainment park at Glendale in Nashville. Her job is literally to ride a horse from a diving tower into a pool of water (and I’d recommend a quick YouTube search to see old footage of this actually taking place). But when Two’s act ends in disaster, and her diving pool collapses into a network of underground caves, strange things begin to happen at Glendale. Spirits from the past are awakened, and animals at the zoo die in suspicious circumstances.

From its rich and beautifully written prologue, it is clear that When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky is an ambitious story, as much about the history of Glendale and the treatment of its native Indian population, as it is about Two and her friends trying to solve the mystery at the zoo. It is refreshing to read a historical novel from this period with such diverse and engaging characters.

But Verble tells her story from multiple points of view, and this may be a case where less would be more. A ghost, Little Elk, repeatedly expresses his surprise at modern 1920s life and when he’s not trying to protect Two, spends most of his time stealing tobacco. The zoo owner’s family turmoil also seems an unnecessary distraction, although zoo manager Clive’s budding romance with Two’s landlady, and his own encounters with ghosts from his recent experiences in World War I, bring depth and interest to the novel. With elements of history, romance, the paranormal, a murder mystery, and plenty of entertaining information about turtle racing, there is a lot going on here. Overall, an enjoyable and original read.