Thursday, October 10, 2013

'The Gravity of Birds'

Summer has blown away, and I hate cold temperatures, but I'm grateful that I have my books to keep me warm.  While cleaning the spare room (a.k.a. 'The Cat's Room'), where I have many bookcases and boxes of 'stuff', I found a stack of advance reading copies that my husband had left there when we did a hurried cleaning of the living room; we had guests coming over, and they hadn't given us much notice.  I sat on the floor and looked at each book, so happy that I had more material to read.  I had just finished Lisa Unger's new book, 'In the Blood', and I was desperate for something new.

And I found it.

Later that evening, I plopped down on the couch and started reading 'The Gravity of Birds'.  It grabbed me from the first sentence; the young girl, Alice, waiting the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of their Summer neighbor, Thomas Bayber, a young up-and-coming painter.  A simple scene, but one that stays with you.  Author Tracy Guzeman has an elegant way of bringing the sights and smells into our consciousness; the scent of green, the cushion of moss, the snap of dried branches underfoot.  But it is the stillness of a young girl that grabs our interest, a young girl who not only harbors a love of birds, but also has a curiosity that will change the lives of everyone around her.

But it isn't just the descriptions that grab you.  It's the way each character moves across the chessboard; Natalie, the jealous, vindictive older sister, holding secrets and telling lies.  Sensitive Alice, living with a disease that is horribly ironic.  Thomas with his amazing talent, who loves one more than the other.  Pulled into the mix are an art historian and a young art authenticator.  

The story travels back-and-forth across the years, although it doesn't go back so far to confuse the reader.  It's within our time; we can make sense of the clothing and the whole world of art and the artists who bring us such delight or melancholy.  We experience deception and jealousy, joy and beauty.

But it's the search for two missing paintings which is at the heart of this beautifully written story.  It is 2007, and Thomas Bayber is a world-famous painter; his works hang in museums and private residences.  Now a recluse who hasn't painted in years, Thomas reveals the never-before-seen painting, 'Kessler Sisters' to  Dennis Finch, the art historian, and Stephen Jameson, the authenticator.  It is Bayber's plan that Finch and Jameson should be the ones to search for the lost paintings...and the women who meant so much to him when he was but a young man.

There's so much more to this novel, but I don't want to reveal any 'spoilers'.  It's elegant, it's interesting, it's 'sister centered', and so very, very full of surprises.  Guzeman is a master manipulator, and you won't see what's coming.  This is a huge recommend for reading groups.

I think I should clean the Cat's Room more often.

'The Gravity of Birds', published by Simon & Schuster, is available at your favorite independent bookstore and local library.  

No comments: