In a mining village in the 1940s – when all the men kept racing pigeons – Dan Pugh, a miner whose wife died in childbirth, loves the little daughter who survived. Oxygen deprivation at birth caused what is now called Minimal Brain Dysfunction, and was then called being ‘simple.’ Bethan cannot do many things, but adores her father and the racing pigeons; in particular a bird called Birthday, which is her own.
The villagers supply a rich supporting cast in this story. When Pugh tragically dies they all try, but without success, to explain to Bethan what has happened. But for her, with her unique slant on human life, death simply has no meaning. For example, having been told that her father has gone to heaven she thinks she can go there on the local bus. The aunt who ran her brother’s house, and whose heart is being broken in a secret love affair with a local shepherd, wants to get rid of Bethan now. In the end Bethan’s solution is to send Birthday to her father with a letter. But can any pigeon, however fast, take a message to a dead man?
This story, often very funny, finally lands the bewitched reader face to face with one of the most elemental mysteries of the planet; and one of the most original solutions.