We’re all refugees from something.
What Birds Know is a novel inspired by real events.
Set in the former East Germany and told over 72 hours, this is the story of Thomas Hart—an affable control freak with a penchant for avoidance—newly arrived in the homeland he escaped from, 28 years ago, when his son was killed at the communist-controlled border.
Accompanied by his American wife, he is there to rescue his estranged, politically radicalized sister Elke following her traumatic run-in with a migrant teen.
When a pre-dawn police siren shatters the fragile divide between Thomas’s past and present, he ditches his sleeping wife at their hotel and embarks on a spontaneous car ride that will upend his mission as well as his marriage.
Traveling east in the direction of his former life, he acquires a nosy driver, a stray dog, and a parcel from a mysterious Syrian woman. Enraged at being abandoned, Cate joins her husband in Dresden where Elke lives—in a city with a simmering anti-refugee movement. Thomas is already teetering on self-destruction when a brutal truth about his son’s death is revealed, giving him and Cate a way forward together.
A meditation on migration and the boundaries that divide countries and families, this is the story of a father’s struggle to make peace with a life of freedom gained at the expense of his child. At a time when millions are on the move, Thomas’s test of endurance is a reminder of the refugee that dwells inside all of us.
“A meditation on migration, this is a story about displacement—physical and emotional.”– Holly Hubbard Preston
East Germany Remembered
Interview with Matthias Mueller
Sensitivity Reader, What Birds Know
The Story Behind the Story
Four-minute narrative video, including author interview, that tells the backstory behind the writing of What Birds Know and the real life events that inspired the story.
What is free will worth? Would you risk a life for it?
For fans of Elizabeth Strout and Amor Towles, a literary debut inspired by real events. Set in present day Germany and told over 72 hours, What Birds Know follows a one-time East German escapee with a penchant for avoidance back to a place he hates most in the world so he can save a sister and a marriage from ruin. A meditation on migration and the boundaries that divide countries and families, this story speaks to the refugee in each of us.