Rooney is a multitalented, nimble writer, moving easily among literary genres and styles ... It’s quite a leap, and a beautifully successful one, from modern New York City to the trenches of the Argonne Forest near the end of World War I and the alternating voices of a soldier and a bird ... Rooney’s plot delves imaginatively into a historical incident; all the characters, real names preserved, including the bird’s, are based on actual soldiers. Rooney creates warm and empathetic portraits of them ... The novelist, with admirable restraint of her anger at a war born of greed and arrogance by politicians and generals, unfolds with patient attention to the characters and their impossible mission, what real courage is ... The use of a pigeon narrator in a dead-serious story could have come off as a gimmick. But Rooney uses him well. From the vantage point of his flights he sees, more clearly than the major, what a mess humans routinely make, when they interfere with the natural world and each other.
Rooney takes her gift for inhabiting fascinating real-life figures in an exciting new direction ... Rooney provides historical context that is at once sweeping and specific, and her affinity for research is evident in details both lovely and harrowing ... Rooney makes a strong case for considering alternatives to war, pondering who we call heroes and why, and offering animals more empathy and respect. This is a creative, heartfelt, edifying reimagining of an important event in World War I history, as seen through the eyes of two extraordinary individuals.
[Cher Ami] is a stuffed exhibit but takes her situation with so much philosophical grace and humor that I was immediately won over ... This could have been a sentimental tear-jerker. Who wouldn’t cry over a World War I story, featuring a sensitive, tortured officer and a brave, thoughtful messenger pigeon; that is, a dove. The pathos might have been awful. But not in Kathleen Rooney’s elegant and well-researched telling. From its first lines, hearing Cher Ami’s voice, I relaxed, knowing that even if (if?) the story turned out tragically, it was true in the way the best fiction is, with wit, intelligence, insights, and unexpected turns in the plot. Recommended.