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Before Women Had Wings (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 22, 1997

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449911446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449911440
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Raised in an atmosphere of poverty and violence, 6-year-old Avocet Abigail Jackson, or Bird as she's called, is wise beyond her years. After falling to abuse by her alcoholic parents and the destructive upheaval of moving from one flop house to the next, her one solace is Jesus, whom she fantasizes as a possible suitor. While her older sister discovers romance with a local boy, Bird discovers Miss Zora, a mysterious black woman who lives alone in a cottage near Bird's school and comes to teach the little girl about dignity and her own capacity for forgiveness. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A nine-year-old narrator whose voice is heavy with sorrow, but who learns truths about the heart, is the focus of Fowler's deeply moving, triumphant third novel. The reader, too, learns lessons about a child's love for her parents, even when that child is the helpless victim of their physical and emotional abuse. Avocet Jackson, called Bird, lives with her parents, Billy and Glory Marie, and her older sister, Phoebe, in a roach-infested Florida shack. When Billy, a frustrated country music singer who has squandered his talent in booze, commits suicide, a desperate Glory Marie takes the girls to the outskirts of Tampa, where they move into a dilapidated trailer. Terrorized by her mother's alcohol-fueled rages, Bird is further confused by the fire-and-brimstone strictures of the Bible, which she takes literally. She feels that Jesus and the devil are battling for control over her life, and when her mother becomes more violent and calls her "a fat, lazy, lying sack of shit," she concludes that Jesus has spurned her. Fowler brilliantly conveys a child's bewilderment when the sources that should provide succor?parents and religion?instead inspire fear. Her depictions of physical violence?Glory Marie's beating at the hands of a man hired by her jealous husband, or her own brutal attacks on Bird and Phoebe?spare no harrowing details. Fowler sweeps the narrative along with plangent, lyrical prose. Mixing the squalid details of Bird's life with the child's magical dreams of hope and healing, she has fulfilled the promise of her highly praised debut, Sugar Cage, and established herself as a writer of formidable talent.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Connie May Fowler is an award-winning novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter. Grand Central Publishing will publish her most recent novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, April 2, 2010. She is the author of six other books: five critically acclaimed novels and one memoir. Her novels include Sugar Cage, River of Hidden Dreams, The Problem with Murmur Lee, Remembering Blue--recipient of the Chautauqua South Literary Award--and Before Women had Wings--recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Buck Award from the League of American Pen Women. Three of her novels have been Dublin International Literary Award nominees. Ms. Fowler adapted Before Women had Wings for Oprah Winfrey. The result was an Emmy-winning film starring Ms. Winfrey and Ellen Barkin. In 2002 she published When Katie Wakes, a memoir that explores her descent and escape from an abusive relationship. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and is published worldwide. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, London Times, International Herald Tribune, Japan Times, Slate, Oxford American, Best Life, and elsewhere. For two years she wrote "Savoring Florida," a culinary and culture column for FORUM, a publication of the Florida Humanities Council. In 2007, Ms. Fowler performed in New York City at The Player's Club with actresses Kathleen Chalfont, Penny Fuller and others in an adaptation based on The Other Woman, an anthology that contains her essay "The Uterine Blues." In 2003, Ms. Fowler performed in The Vagina Monologues alongside Jane Fonda and Rosie Perez in a production that raised over $100,000 for charity. She is currently working on her next project, a novel titled Euphrates in Paradise. In addition to writing, Ms. Fowler has held numerous jobs including bartender, food caterer, nurse, television producer, TV show host, antique peddler, and construction worker. From 1997-2003 she directed the Connie May Fowler Women Wings Foundation, an organization dedicated to aiding women and children in need. From 2003-2007 she served as the Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing at Rollins College and directed their award-winning visiting author series Winter With the Writers. Ms. Fowler travels the country, speaking on topics such as writing, self-employment in the arts, literacy, domestic violence, child abuse, environmental issues, and popular culture. She teaches writing workshops and seminars globally and is the founder of Below Sea Level: Full Immersion Workshops for Serious Writers. She is a Florida native.

Customer Reviews

This book had me captivated from the very beginning.
Diane J. Trautweiler
A beautiful, intense, and at times hard-to-bear-the-burden story of a young girl's life as an abused child seeking love and a sense of self-worth in a world of chaos.
Michael Bowen
Connie May Fowler is an excellent author who uses wonderful techniques that not only describe but give you a feeling that you are the character.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By dltstl on August 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Other reviewers do a good job of summing up what the book is about, so I won't try to do that. But I will point out that it is almost unremittingly harsh and violent. The book and the main character do, as the title suggest, soar beyond that, but this material can be hard to read. For those for whom this hits too close to home, every insult and slap will sting. For those who don't already have this kind of violence in their lives, you may not wish to bring it in. It's definitely something to consider before you jump in.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. Allworth on June 13, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was only fifteen when I read this book. I am now twenty one. And, I have to say that it gave me strength and hope that I would eventually get out of my own abusive family. It brought me inspiration to continue to write and put my feelings into words. I think Ms. Fowler is an excellent writer. And, I do have to say that, as hard as it is to read, it is worth reading. Just have some tissue near by. And, make sure you have someone to hug, even if it's a cat or dog. :)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Diane J. Trautweiler on July 11, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I received, Before Women Had Wings, as a gift from my sister. Prior to this, I had never heard of Connie May Fowler, and I've come to realize she's a fairly new aurthor, as she's written only three novels.
This book had me captivated from the very beginning. The characters were so rich and full of life, and Ms. Fowler's descriptions were so very humanistic -- she generates feelings within the reader and paints her canvas full of elaborate descriptions full of texture.
A story about a darling six-year-old girl named Avocet Abigail Jackson, who is mainly called by the nickname "Bird", this story pulls at your hearstrings. It's about this six-year-old dealing with an abusive mother who, not only has a drinking problem, but has a tongue of steel. Added to this dysfunctional family is a loving, but equally alcohol-obsessed father (who later commits suicide), a warm, but absent brother (who flew the coop when he could and came back to visit later), and a coming-of-age older sister.
Bird tries to sift through where she belongs in this world when her mother packs the two girls to a trailer home, where Bird meets Miss Zora, a highly spiritual soul who is a healer.
Bird is one of the most charming young female characters I have come across in a long time. You not only feel for her, but for her sister, Phoebe and brother, Hank, as well. As for Mom (Glory Marie) and Pop (Billy), they were indeed lost souls. Billy was a well-meaning man and father, but just so lost. As for Glory Marie, she was so easy to dislike, but as her soul unraveled towards the end of the story, you hoped for her sake, as well as for her children's, that she would find her way.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was very touching. Seeing two young girls go through so much at such a tender age. Seeing them grow up so fast by no choice of their own. It was heartbreaking to read about the verbal and physical abuse that went on in their household and the blame being put on them for everything that went wrong. You will acquire a strong affection for Bird, the main character in the story. She is a curious, loving, forgiving, precious little girl. She goes through alot, and the way the book is written, makes the reader feel that they are walking hand-in-hand with Bird the whole time.Connie May Fowler is a talented writer. God Bless Her!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Angela Jackson-Brown on May 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Perhaps one of the most difficult stories to write is a story about children and/or abuse. Interjecting just the right amount of sentimentality is often times too difficult of a task for even the most talented writers, but Connie May Fowler tackles both topics with a level of sensitivity and finesse that makes this book a "must read." BEFORE WOMEN HAD WINGS tells the story of Avocet "Bird" Jackson, a world-weary child in search of love among the people whose love should be a given but who are sometimes the most stingy with their affections. Bird tells the story of many young women who have either witnessed or experienced abuse in a matter-of-fact, no-holds bar fashion. The complexity of the relationship between she and her parents and she and her sister and brother provides readers with a wide-open look into a tragic life that eventually makes a transcendent jump into a path of redemption. This is a book well worth reading again and again.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "judithb" on July 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Connie May Fowler introduces us to a six year old girl, known as Bird because most people refused to believe someone was really called Avocet. Although Bird knows no other life, we readers immediately realise she's trapped in a dreadful existence - alcoholic, emotionally and physically abusive and desperately poor. Not a new story, but certainly not derivitive.
We see the cycle of family dysfunction, brought on by lost dreams, violence, poverty, hopelessness and alcoholism from Bird's perspective as she desperately tries to make sense of it all. Adding to her confusion, she tries to find hope in religion, where even that is the cause of a family rift - the children are divided between the Baptist father and Catholic mother, and Bird is devastated when she finds she will never be a Bride of Christ, like her sister.
Except for the extremes, Bird's childhood is not that different from many of ours. I'm sure I wasn't the only reader remembering the confusion of childhood, trying to make sense of adults' behaviour, the strange religious stories, and the weird stuff taught at school, wondering why everything that goes wrong is our fault, enduring the cruelty inflicted by other children, desperately longing to be loved and safe. But if we were lucky, we had a warm bed, food on the table, arms that hugged us and told us we were loved. Among the not so fortunate, Bird could take none these for granted.
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