Book Review: “The Third Thing”, by Sirkka Smith

Love. Friendship. Weird Birds.

Thirty-one-year-old Xiomara (Xo) wants a reset on life. She ditches her job and heads to the small town of Lingen where she accepts a part-time position doing what she loves: drawing and painting local birds for an upcoming field guide. As much as she would like a boyfriend, she feels awkward, uncertain and maybe a bit too practical when it comes to understanding relationships.

Until she sees Alec. He seems so nice. Is he sending signals that he’s interested?

Elliot is a photographer for the local newspaper. He is shy, insecure, and he hasn’t thought much about romance since his young wife’s death from the deadly mountainpox, nearly ten years ago.

Until he sees Xo. Unfortunately, she seems more interested in his best friend Alec. But Elliot is nothing if not noble, and he accepts friendship with Xo as the next best thing.

Alec offers to guide Xo and Elliot on a hike to nearby Mt. Arin in search of native birds, some of which are rarely seen away from the summit. Xo sticks with Alec, trying to figure out if he’s interested in a relationship or just being nice. Elliot feels left out and not a little jealous.

You know where this is going, right?

Every time Elliot feels brave enough to tell Xiomara of his affection, something happens to make him back off. When he finally gets the nerve to declare his love, it’s so out of the blue that Xo panics. Why on earth, she wonders, would Elliot ask her to marry him when they aren’t really even dating?

Of course, Xo finally comes around. But by then, an old rival of Elliot makes baseless accusations that Elliot killed his wife (the rival’s former girlfriend) by exposing her to the mountainpox that Elliot is immune to.

Elliot desperately wants to marry Xo. Xo desperately wants to marry Elliot. But he can’t rid himself of the nagging thought that maybe he did somehow infect his wife. And if it happened once, could it happen again? He loves Xo too much to risk infecting her, no matter how small the odds.

Together, Elliot and Xo try to figure out if it’s possible that he can be a carrier of the disease even if he doesn’t show any symptoms. They discover a local college professor who has done meticulous research ever since the outbreak that took Elliot’s wife. Can he help?

Will he?

I’m not a huge fan of romance, but I have to say I really enjoyed reading “The Third Thing.” You should too.

Find out more about “The Third Thing,” a novel by Sirkka Smith, at

*Feature image source

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