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The Hummingbirds by Ross McMeekin

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The Hummingbirds

A Novel


EZRA works as a live-in groundskeeper on a celebrity couple’s enormous rental property in Los Angeles. When the magnetic Sybil sets her sights on Ezra and gradually lures him in, he is as conflicted as he is tempted. Then Grant, her husband, approaches Ezra with a different proposal—to monitor Sybil to see if she is having an affair—and he is faced with the formidable challenge in refusing one or the other.

And so begins this sexy, mesmerizing novel about Sybil, an actress desperately hoping for the important role that will resurrect her faltering career; Grant, a cunning, self-made movie producer infamous for subterfuge and secrets; and Ezra, the beautiful, troubled young man they employ—a man haunted by the memory and teachings of his mother, the leader of a new-age cult that deifies birds.

Over one life-altering week, Sybil casts Ezra as the center of her universe. Together, they fantasize about the new life for both of them, where Sybil directs and stars in a controversial film about the Middle East, and Ezra can finally realize his dream of traveling to photograph exotic birds, a craft he has cultivated in the hummingbird-filled gardens of the property. But when Sybil’s husband Grant discovers their passionate affair, the three are set on a collision course that can only end in violence.

In The Hummingbirds, Ross McMeekin captures people yearning for deep connections in a shallow world defined by the twin obsessions of power and beauty. It is a story of love and redemption, of murder and betrayal, and of the darkness that lurks in the heart of Hollywood. app in a gift box

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The Hummingbirds is a transfixing and hugely propulsive novel, a dark and rich tale twisted through with secrecy and danger, ambition, loneliness and love. The book also beautifully captures the insanity of Los Angeles, the film industry, and the people who occupy—however fleetingly—that precarious and mesmerizing world.”

Peter Mountford, author of A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism and The Dismal Science

“With sly wit and piercing intelligence, Ross McMeekin’s novel traverses the classic terrain of California noir and manages, almost miraculously, to render it anew. Echoes of Cain, echoes of West, and yet even as the lush, light-struck world of swimming pools and starlets is rendered in all its nearly-sinister invitation, the book sneaks up on us with a startling and profound empathy. The Hummingbirds is truly beautiful.”

Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine



He’d assumed simplicity in everyone but himself. All that self-loathing had disguised his own arrogance.
Just thinking about lofty, centuries-old words like gubernatorial summoned a fearful taste of copper to the back of his tongue.
He was his only competition, and anyone with an IQ above romcom knew that trying to defeat yourself was self-defeating.
Maybe his mother was right: everyone was blessed with deep caverns of need that nothing of this earth could fill, and that emptiness pushed them to do terrible things.
God, one small decision, based on the tiniest of thoughts, could project so far into the future. It could drive you crazy. Make you want to cling to a higher power.
Yeah, she was caught up in it, but that was no small thing…people spent their lives trying to get caught up in something that might make them feel good enough to forget themselves.
She and her agent had used words like momentum and trajectory as if a fabulous career was simply a physics problem in need of the right figures.
People were wrong, of course: the years didn’t take, they traded. Sexual allure for complexity. But who wanted complexity from her?

About the author

Ross McMeekin’s stories have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, Shenandoah, Redivider, PANK, and elsewhere. His nonfiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Hunger Mountain, The Rumpus, and Green Mountains Review. He edits the literary journal Spartan,and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He's a former fellow of the Richard Hugo House and the Jack Straw Writers Program in Seattle.


“McMeekin writes with a dreamlike haziness that prevents The Hummingbirds from becoming the literary equivalent of an effects-driven action movie. Instead, it’s a quiet, sometimes tender meditation on the authority of desire — the influence we give it and the influence it has over us.”

Chicago Review of Books

“The Hummingbirds is a literary page-turner that delves unflinchingly into the dark side of the American Dream. Set against a background shaped by religious fanaticism, adultery, violence, and Hollywood glamour, this story sheds an unforgiving light on the dangerous ways in which we betray those we love--as well as our better selves. Ross McMeekin has written a remarkable book.”

Clint McCown, author of Haints

“Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,' Rilke says in the epigraph to The Hummingbirds, Ross McMeekin's stunning debut novel, and the story that follows certainly bears out the truth of those words. Told from the perspectives of a beautiful, sexy starlet, her nefarious producer husband, and their handsome young groundskeeper, the morally tortured son of a cult leader called the Prophetess of the Apocalypse, the novel is a dark, suspenseful meditation on beauty and the devastating consequences of the privileges it grants. It is a beautiful and terrifying book, one that will make you think of another famous line from Rilke: 'You must change your life.”

David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories and Nice People: New & Selected Stories II

“Ezra, our main narrator among the threesome, is a compelling sort of anti-hero, a Proustian 'watcher' of the world's pleasure-takers. He sees but can't quite bring himself to believe how beauty may corrupt, turn poisonous. The Hollywood set of this book--its glitter and seduction--entices us to feel a similar pull towards all that appears beautiful . . . even sensing our eventual emergence into the dark underbelly. The layers of storylines and perspectives are masterfully done. Bravo. A riveting read.”

Nance Van Winckel, author of Quake, Boneland, and Ever Yrs.

“Readers of The Hummingbirds will find themselves in a hard world softened by the people who live there. Ross McMeekin’s smart, stylish novel is as sexy as they come; even its edginess is forgiving. And on another note, McMeekin's female characters rock.”

Abby Frucht, author of A Well-Made Bed
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