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Intersection Column | When Children’s Hearts Mend

by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

I know this: When adult family members sink or break, their children often bear the brunt of heartache. Then, as those kids seek to solve or escape or soothe their hurt, their responses can repeat familial patterns of survival, and rather than heal that pain, they pass it on.

I know because I lived it. Three younger siblings and I spent our early years in a series of rodent-infested, empty-cupboard rentals, both dodging and taking direct hits from our parents’ verbal and physical munitions.

My dad, a preschooler when his Okie parents lost their land to the Dust Bowl, traveled Route 66 with them to California, where the family found work as farm migrants, living in labor camps and harvesting crops up the coast to northern Washington State. Determined to outrun his poverty, at eighteen Dad won and married my mom, the privileged only child of my prosperous grandparents. But, just as Mom didn’t expect my charming father to drink so much or to recreate his family’s violence and want, he didn’t bargain for her entitlement or vitriol.

We moved to Mom’s hometown when they divorced. Still determined to protect her—and now us kids—from the privation he’d known as a child of hardscrabble pioneers, my granddad bought us a 1912 Craftsman house on Fifth Street, three miles from his and my grandmother’s rural home. My mother went to work in his business, and we kids knew residential stability for the first time.

But not emotional or spiritual peace. Mom’s anger and resentment came home with her daily.

I ran from it—to the Pacific Northwest forests and saltwater strait, the creeks and beaches, the foothills and mountains that surrounded my grandparents’ home. As Gram and Gramps welcomed me and shared their tender love for me and that wild, astonishing world, eventually I met its Creator, who filled my long-hungry heart with Himself. My breath and guide ever since, He’s broken old patterns of fear and mistrust.

And He’s made me new.

Clearly, Sugar Birds takes root in my story, where, in life as in fiction, we’re all sugar birds, scratching and pecking for the sweet seed that will soothe our ache. Like my own, Aggie’s mother suffers depression and fits of rage. When Aggie’s dad teaches his daughter to sketch bird nests to stave off her sorrow about all that, he resembles my granddad pointing me to the happiness in trees. In Aggie’s climbs to find those nests, I drew from my siblings’ and my exhilaration at the perilous heights to which we climbed in giant firs, and recalled how I, like Aggie, learned to hunt the Father’s song in those branches.

As Aggie’s grief and guilt consume her, she runs to a physical wilderness, and her faulty thinking plunges her into an emotional one. Both wildernesses parallel my own, before I knew the forgiveness and love that brought me home.

Likewise, my teenage response to my parents shaped Celia’s rebellious dismay at her parents’ abandonment—even as she longs for the restoration of their relationships. Celia’s wildlife rehabbing with her biologist grandmother Mender comes from time with my Gram, who taught me to identify the markings and flights of passerines and raptors, even as she modeled how to treasure those birds.

And when children’s hearts mend in the story? Well, I remember how that feels.

So many intersections—and there are more, especially in the novel’s secondary characters. But let’s hold off, shall we? We’ll have lots more to talk about when you meet them again in the forthcoming Sugar Birds sequel, Leaning on Air.

I’ll look forward to that.


About the Author

Cheryl Grey Bostrom writes surprising prose that has already garnered Sugar Birds many industry honors, including Carol, American Fiction, and Nautilus Awards, Christianity Today’s Fiction Award of Merit, and Christy finalist laurels. A keen student of nature and human behavior, she and her veterinarian husband live in the PNW. Learn more at


About the Book

Ten-year-old Aggie sketches nests of wild birds as an antidote to sadness. After accidentally lighting a tragic fire, she flees downriver and hides in the untamed forest. Ideal for fans of Under the Magnolias, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Great Alone, Sugar Birds is a layered, riveting story set in the breathtaking natural world—where characters encounter the mending power of forgiveness, for themselves and for those who have failed them.


Did You Know?

According to the Baptist Courier, the highest attended church services are those held on Christmas Eve. Throughout the world, masses attend church on the night before Christmas in higher numbers than any other time of the year. This year, Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday which promises to see churches packed like no other time. As we seek to celebrate the reason for the season, how do we engage ourselves even deeper throughout the year?

  • Develop a Routine. When we get too busy, we fall away from what matters most. Rather than start a routine of skipping church, make it a habit to be there.

  • Grow in the Word. Those who hunger for the right things find themselves in the right pursuit. Make time each day to grow in your faith, which will lead to a hunger to be in times of worship throughout the year.

  • Utilize Resources to Stoke Your Passion. There are devotionals geared to nearly every interest under the sun. Find one that you enjoy and commit to finishing it. Devotionals help to develop a deeper understanding of the Word of God and help us to grow.

Though we celebrate the coming of Jesus in the Christmas season, we have reasons to celebrate the birth of Christ every day of the year. Now, we must make it a priority all year.


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“I love walking into a bookstore and being surrounded by a cornucopia of every genre of book I could ever want. The smell of new books is intoxicating to me. I could get lost for hours wandering the aisles and perusing the titles.”

-Ellen Fannon, Honor Thy Father Episodes One and Two


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