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

4.3 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have recently completed reading 'Before Women Had Wings' written by Connie Fowler. It is a 'real life in your face' view of what it may be like to be hopeless and destitute - 'white trash' living within a rural area of the south, or more likely, this story could unfold in virtually any part of the United States. Although the two children are caught in the grasp of a hell all their own, it must be acknowledged: their mother is torn within her own grasp of the Grim Reaper's icy hold. Therefore, out of the only existing resources offered her and a heart wrenching fear to provide, she desperately needs a friend, silently pleading for help to save her children from herself. The novelist leaves little doubt, beyond the obvious socially unacceptable diaseases of mental illness, abuse, and alcoholism, Ms. Jackson must and will survive. Glory Marie, at the very least, has managed to instill this survivalist instinct within Phoebe and Avocet (or perhaps the cruel upbringing provides the instinct)to survive and yet hold love for each other while enduring these excruciating circumstances. One must always remember: Violence begets violence. Ms. Fowler does this 'race' of poor white trash a service, and an exceptional one, by telling this story as it is - with the realistic description of making one feel it; if one doesn't live it. Of making one experience the ache of poverty; if actually they have not. It is a story that is told well, has the ability to emotionally move one to tears and anger within its pages, leaving the color of one's skin irrelevant.
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