The heroine of All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld does push-ups when she’s angry or confused, and as a result she looks big, broad-chested, muscular. Also, her name is Jake. Also, she shears sheep for a living, and if you’ve never wrestled a 300-pound beast while hacking at its skin with large scissors, this is more strenuous labor than you might expect. All of which means that Jake comes across as manly. She likes it that way. It tells certain kinds of men to keep their distance: rough men, who, like Jake, migrate among the sheep stations of Australia, looking for work; and, later, taciturn old men who toil the craggy farms next to hers, on an unnamed British island. Jake just wants to be left alone.
Why Jake flees Australia for Britain is the question at the heart of this book, and it’s also the book’s missing piece. Ingeniously, Wyld builds her novel around this caesura, telling the story in two separate timelines. In the odd-numbered chapters, Jake is isolated on her grim British farm, and something is gruesomely killing her sheep. It could be disaffected teenagers from a nearby town, or it could be a creature that nobody else believes exists. These chapters move forward in time, starting with Jake’s arrival on the island and culminating in a confrontation with the sheep-killer.