Book Review: Stephen Kiernan’s The Hummingbird

Stephen Kiernan’s The Hummingbird follows seasoned hospice nurse, Deborah Birch, as she cares for a retired professor and as she tries to help her husband re-acclimate after 3 tours served in Iraq. The book is a moving portrayal of the hard work and touching relationships formed by a patient and a hospice care worker at the end of life. Throughout the story, Deborah and her patient teach each other about forgiveness and helping the people in their lives heal. 

Before Deborah Birch meets a patient for the first time, she presses her thumb on the back of a Hummingbird given to her by a former patient, not for luck, but to remind herself that “[she] receives something meaningful from every person. [She] gains more than she gives.” With Barclay Reed, a retired World War II history professor, Deborah has to repeat this to herself often. As Deborah cares for the Professor and he reveals his final wish, for her to read to him from his last history book, she begins to gain more than she had expected. 

At the same time, Deborah tries to cope with her husband Michael, who has returned from his third tour in Iraq and struggles with returning to civilian life. The professor’s story teaches her how to empathize with her husband’s turmoil and understand the demons he carries back from war. In the end, The Hummingbird teaches the reader about the importance of having faith in the ones we love the most and about the difficult job of caring, whether it be for a husband, a child or a patient at the end of life. 

The Hummingbird is excellently written and extremely moving. It is filled with genuine characters who have the ability to make you laugh and make you cry. It offers the reader comfort in trying times and ultimately encourages the reader to have faith in the people they love.