How do you find someone who wants to be lost?
Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative - and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family's summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.
Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters - a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.
In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.
©2013 Tracy Guzeman (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
This is one of those mesmerizing novels that pulls you in from the beginning, leaving you repeatedly dumbstruck throughout asking yourself, “Why isn’t this on every best book list out there?” Tracy Guzeman’s The Gravity of Birds is part mystery, part psychological drama, part coming of age story while telling several love stories. I think at one point in there, there was even a recipe given.
Two adolescent sisters of the 70’s encounter a neighboring artist at the time of their awaking sexuality. This chance exposure has lifelong effects on each of their lives and relationships. Forty-four years later, when an undiscovered portrait of them is unveiled, a cross country journey brings all the pieces and secrets of their journeys together. The ones that at first seem so strong turn out to be the most fragile. There are so many, “Man, I didn’t see that coming” moments in this book and just when you think you have it figured out – there’s one more.
Tracy Guzeman’s debut novel is layered with well-defined characters in a plot so expertly interwoven that frankly I can’t think of a single point where a single thread is out of place. It’s a tight novel lyrically, if not poetically, written. I know in my mind’s eye exactly how each every priceless canvas, figurine and sculpture mention looks through the gracefully descriptive words of the author alone.
Cassandra Campbell never disappoints – always a great narration.
It’s just lovely in every way.
There was so much I enjoyed about this novel, the prose, the characters, the story concept, the build up. But even though there was obviously a great story to be told, I was left feeling flat. I don't want to give anything away because like I said the concept was excellent but the story in the end just didn't deliver for me. These people did vile, despicable, horrible things to each other but there was not true explanation to the why's and the hows. And the climax of the story? Was completely anticlimactic because for some reason, none of the surviving characters could bring themselves to show they cared one way or the other. I've never met a bigger group of dispassionate people in my life. I suspect the author shied away form the natural intense emotion expected and instead relied on birdwatching archetypes and milquetoast characters.
I mean seriously, there's this BIG, HUGE revelation that should have blown the roof off the entire novel and all of the characters involved are like, "Ho hum, who cares, let's have lunch."
It was a wholly unsatisfying experience. I found that unfortunate because I really, really wanted to like this book.
Guzeman's writing was lyrical, Cassandra Campbell's narration was lovely, and the plot was interesting. But this novel was very depressing...a treatise on how one woman's evil destroyed the lives around her. There was great inconsistency and naivete in the actions of the characters which made the story seem less believable. I think a better editor could have taken this novel to the next level.
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