Little Birds

This novel, set in 1858 in New Mexico Territory, serves as a bridge between the Wilderness series of novels and the first two novels of the Waverly Place series.

 Backstory: 1845

Callie Ballentyne is a young girl when her life is upended and she must leave the only home she knows. With her mother – recently widowed – and her younger brother Nathan she moves to Manhattan. Lily Ballentyne remarries, a well-to-do old family friend, and they settle down in a large house on Waverly Place. Callie never learns to like the city, but she and her brother respect their step-father (if not their step-sister Margaret), and school is a welcome distraction.

 At fifteen Callie enters into a midwifery apprenticeship with her cousin Amelie Savard. She attends nursing school as well, because her patients and their children need more than one kind of care.

When she has been practicing for some six years, the director at the New Amsterdam Hospital, where Callie is employed, brings her a letter from his brother-in-law, Dr. Samuel Markham of Santa Fe in New Mexico territory. Dr. Markham is looking for a nurse and midwife to join his practice. To the person who can meet his rather unusual requirements he offers a modest salary and room and board with his family. The requirements are unusual but they appeal to Callie.

Dr. Markham requires someone who is not put off by living far from civilization, with few amenities. The landscape is harsh; the person who joins his practice will have to be comfortable traveling on horseback to see patients. The patients are poor, and most of them have no English. A willingness to learn Spanish is a non-negotiable requirement. The Navajo, Apache and other tribes sometimes attack wagon trains and settlements, so this midwife must be courageous, committed and able to handle weapons. At the same time, she will be living side by side with Indians of many tribes — primarily the Puebloan –  and she must be ready to learn about their cultures without assumptions or prejudice.
Opening: 1857
With Nathan as a traveling companion, Callie sets out for Santa Fe. The first part of the journey is by train. The rail system reaches only as far as St. Louis, and from there they board a packet on the Missouri River. Once they reach the Kansas border they must join a wagon train.

Callie will find Santa Fe to be full of unexpected contrasts. It is a town dominated by two forces: first, the Army, which is there to protect the citizens from Indian raids and to keep the territory under American control. It is less than ten years since Mexico surrendered a

In the course of the journey west and finding a place for herself in Santa Fe, Callie finds she can no longer evade the repercussions of the events which made her mother leave Paradise for Manhattan. While she struggles with unresolved loss, she develops a relationship with Eli Ibarra, half Basque, half Pueblo Indian of the Jemez (Walatowa) Pueblo. In Santa Fe she deals with racial, religious and ethnic conflicts, with slavery and with women’s mental and physical health, and with the political chaos of a nation on the brink of Civil War.

56 thoughts on “Little Birds

  1. From a male perspective—I love history and let me tell you how much I have enjoyed( and re-read) not only the Wilderness Books but the Waverly Books as well. I am anxious to read this bridge book as you call it. I like that your male characters are also given substance and mesh well with their female counterparts.
    I find that your writing is a very easy style to read comfortably. Please keep writing as I do enjoy the Waverly series.

    1. Hi Lee — It’s great to hear from men who have followed along with the novels. I always breath a little easier knowing that guys find something worthwhile in the stories. Thanks very much for taking the time to write.

  2. Hi, love your books. When will Little Birds be released? Can’t wait to read it before I start The Waverly Place series.

  3. Absolutely loved The Wilderness Series…..brilliant reading, never wanted to finish!
    So excited to read The Gilded Hour and then Where the Light Enters….then surprise I find there is one more that I missed somehow….off to buy it now !!!
    Lori Smaling

  4. I am so looking forward to reading this, I have been a huge fan going back to “Into the Wilderness” and you know I’m a huge fan because I have all your books in hardcover.

      1. Sara
        I have all your books from the very beginning. I have read my books so much that the binding is worn away. I await you new novel and until then I take comfort reading your novels all over again and again. Thank you

  5. I have read all of your books.they are wonderful.cant wait for little birds to be released.would like to send a copy to all my friends for Xmas as they too love your writing.have a happy holiday and are u starting your next novel so perhaps we won’t have to wait so long.

    1. Hi Arleen — I very much appreciate your kind words and support. Let’s hope that we don’t have another year like last one (or this one) so I can write at a pace that makes us both happier. best wishes

  6. Hi from the Pacific Coast of Canada. I am an avid fan of all your writing, but especially the Donati titles, and model/aspire myself after your writing in my own historical fiction work, set here in Canada in late 1800s-early 1900s. I’ve been checking your websites on and off ever since finishing the second Waverly Place novel and am delighted to hear of this ‘in-between-quel,’ as I found myself wanting it, specifically, as I read The Gilded Hour. How did we get here? What happened in between? So great that I’ll get to find out. Projected publication date….?? I know, I know, everyone asks.

  7. I wait patiently for Little Birds as I have enjoyed all the books connected with the Bonner clan. I enjoyed connecting historical fiction with the history classes I took in university. Sorry you don’t enjoy writing these novels as much as I enjoy reading them. Thanks for all your hard work!

  8. Hello, greetings from NE of Scotland, I have loved reading every line of your books. I am sorry when they come to the end and I am so looking forward to reading Little Birds.

  9. “Greetings” from Sydney, Australia. I have read all but two of your earlier books, starting with the Wilderness series and anxiously waiting for the release of Little Birds.

  10. Have loved all your books to bits. However when I started the second series didn’t realise they not all written yet!! This going to require some patience. Hope you enjoy writing them as much as I enjoy reading them.

    1. Hi Eileen — I can’t say writing fiction is a huge amount of fun. Somebody (can’t remember who) said: I hate writing. I love having written. That’s pretty much the way it works. I also love hearing from readers who like what I put together. So many thanks.

  11. CoVid retired me from substituting at the high school where I taught for 35 years and subbed for another 12 years. Then surgery sidelined me for months. I started your eight novels at the end but quickly remedied that….and have just finished Where the Light Enters for the second time. I love the historical background as much as the characters….and as much as I love The Last of the Mohicans film that I shared with my American Threads (English and History) classes. Thank you, Sara/Rosina for the many hours of pleasure in reading your novels. I am so excited to hear about Little Birds. Thank you so much.

    Vicki Hackett

  12. I am so excited to read this story about Callie… so happy that I can be a part of this family and the stories you share 🥰

  13. This is such exciting news. I have devoured everything this wonderful author has written. Can’t wait to fall back into this world.

  14. I am so excited about this book, I too have read all of the series and am anxiously awaiting Little Birds.

  15. I am so excited to read this addition to the Bonner story. Having lived most of my life in Santa Fe, NM, it will be an especially enjoyable read. Thank you for these historical stories. I have learned so much from them. When might the book be published?

  16. It’s exciting to see the Bonner tribe in a new and yet still wild setting! Seeing it connect to Waverly Place makes it feel like everything coming together to see the big picture! I can’t wait to dive in when it comes out!

  17. So excited for the next piece of the Ballentyne story. Looking forward to the adventures of Lily, Callie, and Nathan living in a time of unrest, and transition where the influence of church and state, and diversity amongst people will play a huge part.

  18. Interesting start. I’ve been to Sante Fe and loved the terrain far more than I liked the town. I particularly like the connection for Callie. Living close to wilderness alongside the indigenous peoples. Following the history of NM is a great catch too. It intrigues me.

  19. It’s going to be fabulous educational and exciting. Brilliant as always Sara Donati. Well worth the wait.

  20. Thank you for bringing us into this brave new world with your amazing characters. My reading glasses will be ready for the marathon read. Irene C.

  21. Swoon. I am looking forward to this, and send you deep sleep, lots of inspiration, a pain free back, and elves that cook and clean.

  22. This is so tantalizing. Makes waiting even more difficult — but I will as I have no choice! Thank you, thank you in advance.

  23. Beautifully layered from the onset. I eagerly await this next novel, thank you for this delicious snippet. All the best~

  24. Oh, it’s so lovely. I can’t wait for it to be published so I can keep on reading about the Bonner progenies. Love, xx

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