Feathers from Heaven

Departed mothers communicate with their daughters in a new compilation of true stories.

We know Sinclair Browning as the author of two fine historical novels (Enju and America's Best), the Trade Ellis mystery series based in the Tucson area and the co-author of Lyons on Horses. Her versatility expands with Feathers Brush My Heart, a compilation of the stories of 70 individual women who have been contacted in some way by their departed mothers.

Browning's Trade Ellis is a tough, dirty-shirt cowgirl P.I., modeled to a large degree after herself. She now goes in a different direction, much like that other great creator of a serial detective who also had a deep interest in the paranormal, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

On one of her long horseback trips with a group of other women, Sinclair Browning (known as "Zeke" to her friends) shared a campfire story about how she began finding white feathers in unusual and unexpected places after her mother's death. Her mother was at one time an actress and always exercised her diaphragm by blowing a white feather into the air, saying "I love you." Her fellow riders not only agreed that she had been contacted by her dead mother, but had similar stories to tell themselves. She began collecting them and they are presented here.

Feathers purposely involves only mothers and daughters for the obvious reason that women are more likely to share these types of intimate experiences with another woman, while most guys are too uptight to discuss or simply too unobservant to notice the many subtle messages this book discusses. Relax, guys. There's much here for us, too, if we'll shut up and listen. That comes from a guy with a picture of George S. Patton over his computer who grew up on writers like Kipling, Costain and Heinlein.

George wrote poetry and believed in reincarnation, and check out Kipling's The Phanton Rickshaw and Costain's Below the Salt.

One reviewer has said that Feathers is "more touchy-feely than science fiction." Clearly, she knew little of the greatest of all science fiction writers, Robert Anson Heinlein, whose constant attempt to discover basic truths often bumped him into areas beyond current scientific explanation. An old friend of mine is a CalTech engineer type whose wife drives him nuts with the simple observation that "just because it's a superstition doesn't prove it's wrong."

Belief in the afterlife is hardly a superstition. It's the basis of most major religions and more than a few minor ones. The 70 women who told Browning their personal stories of contacts from the afterlife add credibility to those who share the belief that there is one.

The women whose stories are told are diverse, from lawyers to cowgirls, doctors to artists. And those stories vary, from the inexplicable discoveries of lost items to the messages delivered both orally and even in writing. Some involve those who had bad relationships with their mothers. There is much here for us to ponder, regardless of our religion or even the lack of it. And Browning is as good a compiler and editor as she is a mystery writer--the divergent tales flow seamlessly.

As would be expected, the only thing disproportionate is that a high percentage of the stories are from Arizonans. Which helped, but was not solely responsible, for the massive attendance at the kickoff author signing at the northside Barnes & Noble here last month. Almost half of the women whose stories are told were present and able to meet each other in an event that was truly inspirational.

To those who would like to give a unique Mother's Day present--even a few of us normally "insensitive" guys--Feathers would be a great choice.

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