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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Songbirds and Stray Dogs by Meagan Lucas is a Southern fiction novel that revolves around two characters who have both found themselves in situations that feel impossible, particularly at the tender early twenty-something ages. Jolene has been smacked down by life since her earliest childhood, abandoned and orphaned (and made to feel a burden about it), bullied, taken advantage of by a man who saw her as a prize, and tossed to the curb by literally everyone she knows in her time of greatest need. Chuck is an uncle who didn't expect to become a father-figure, but he's forced to take care of his nephew Cash and find a way to protect his sister—a task that is hindered when he helps a woman he doesn't know in a parking lot, offering a ride to a pregnant, vulnerable, and hopeless Jolene.
Songbirds and Stray Dogs is immediately engrossing and Meagan Lucas does an excellent job in creating a narrative that pulls a reader in and holds them there. Jolene is well developed as a character, with a growth in her almost immediately as she transitions from naivete into palpable desperation, which inevitably turns to strength. It's a natural progression that doesn't feel rushed; a fitting attribute in a storyline where the South is as much of a character as Jolene and Chuck are. Nothing moves quickly in Lucas' depiction of the Bible Belt, where ideas and progress are hindered by outdated principles. This is a really great book with a solid, heartache of a story. I enjoyed every moment of it.