Robert Joseph Ahola’s book The Return of the Hummingbird Wizard is a meditation that disguises itself as a novel–though not very convincingly. In fact, it almost reads like a memoir. For which Ahola could be praised, in that his main character Jonathan Vieren is so complete and complex that he seems to be real. Like Athena, Vieren may have sprung from Ahola’s brow fully formed.
The story in a nutshell is that Jonathan Vieren is a low-on-the-totem-pole screenwriter in Hollywood whose biggest quirk is a “connection” with animals that he inherited from his father. Vieren begins “conversing” with a hummingbird that appears in his backyard, and he dubs the bird “The Hummingbird Wizard.” He believes the bird is a spiritual creature (think “angel” in the form of a bird) that has come to teach him life lessons. The stakes are upped when Vieren learns he has cancer, and again on September 11, 2001.
In all this, the most interesting parts of the book come when Vieren is interacting not with the bird, but with other Hollywooders. The characters Vieren works with–the characters Ahola describes–are perhaps not as completely fleshed out as Vieren himself, but they are entertaining. Vieren is perhaps almost too human to be completely compelling on his own, even if he does talk to birds.
The points at which Vieren does talk to The Hummingbird Wizard are overwritten and somewhat preachy. They are mostly too long, too stream-of-conscious. As a reader, I felt like I was slogging through the passages, almost as if I were reading to participate in a Bible Study discussion. Occasional inconsistencies with spelling or use of a person’s name, along with some punctuation problems, also detract from the book.
The Return of the Hummingbird Wizard isn’t a total loss, but it does require a lot of work. One needs to be in the mood to sift through the prose for the nuggets of gold embedded therein. It is not the most relaxing read.