A Notion of Pelicans

Salli, D. A Notion of Pelicans. North Star Press, 2016.

On a windblown bluff above Lake Superior sits a fieldstone church. Founded one hundred years ago, after a puzzling encounter with a flock of pelicans left Lavinia with a curious notion, Pelican Church still draws inquisitive souls to its pews with the legend that one solitary bird still circles overhead, watching. These people have notions of their own—a pastor’s wife wants a honeymoon, a professor has harebrained ideas, a business owner is in everyone’s face, a young actress can do or be anything onstage yet struggles with every real-life decision—and their stories, tucked away for years, unfold and glide onto the pages of Donna Salli’s intimate debut novel. The people of Pelican Church are oh-so-human and expose their mix of shifting hopes and obsessions, protected infidelities, and notions gone awry as one October day swings from sunup to sundown under the watchful gaze of a single pelican.


In the very best way, Donna Salli’s A Notion of Pelicans is a book to settle into. There is a storm on the way, but from the beautiful opening scene then into the voices of compelling, complicated and strong women connected to the Pelican Church, this book unfolds elegantly into the depths of marriage, family, history, secrets, violence and love. Every page is a joy to read.

W. Scott Olsen, Author of A Moment with Strangers