Helen is a young Yazidi woman, living with her family in a mountain village in Sinjar, northern Iraq. Helen and and a young journalist named Elias fall deeply in love, marry and start a family in Sinjar. Their happy existence is suddenly shattered when Elias, a journalist, goes missing. A brutal organization is sweeping over the land, infiltrating even the remotest corners, its members cloaking their violence in religious devotion. Helen's search for her husband results in her own captivity and enslavement. She eventually escapes her captors and is reunited with some of her family. But her life is forever changed.
It’s a striking act of imagination that recasts her earlier research with new emotional power ... It’s impossible not to recoil from such a story ... One of the many things I admire about this novel is the way Mikhail refuses to let these murderers and rapists frame their atrocities in religious terms ... These opening 30 pages of sexual abuse are challenging to read, but hang on. Mikhail has a poet’s sensitivity to what her audience needs and can endure ... The Bird Tattoo metamorphoses yet again into a terrifying thriller. It’s a complicated but stunningly effective structure, made all the more so by Mikhail’s deceptively simple, declarative style ... Suddenly, this novel feels not just heartbreaking but terrifyingly relevant.
Compelling ... Just because this is fiction doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The bird tattoo of the title is one of the rare comforting constants, a shared emblem of Helen and Elias’ love within this hellish reign of terror. A harrowing and resonant achievement.