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Bird in Hand: A Novel Hardcover – August 11, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her fourth novel (after The Way Life Should Be), Kline traces the construction and collapse of two long-term relationships. On her way home to New Jersey after an awkward party for her lifelong friend Claire's highly autobiographical first novel, Alison gets into a car accident that kills a boy in the other car. Even though the accident wasn't her fault, Allison, a mother of two young children, is wracked with grief and guilt. Her husband, Charlie, also struggles with the impulse to blame his wife, especially as he longs for any excuse to escalate his nascent affair with Claire and end his marriage. Episodes detailing the inevitable collapse of Alison and Charlie's marriage, as well as Claire's marriage to her well-meaning husband, Ben, are interspersed with vignettes revealing the four friends' 10-plus–year history together. Shifting perspectives and thoughtful interior monologues reveal just how isolated, and in some cases misguided, the characters are. Kline's unflinching gaze and lovely prose sets Kline's novel apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It's well-done, thoughtful and thought provoking. (Aug.)
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“Kline’s razor-sharp novel about love, marriage and obligation is a beach book only because you could zip through it anywhere.” (More magazine)

“Kline’s unflinching gaze and lovely prose set [BIRD IN HAND] apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It’s well-done, thoughtful and thought-provoking.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A gripping tale about two crumbling marriages, [BIRD IN HAND] offers a realistic and, at times, heartbreaking look at love and friendship.” (, Entertainment Pick)

“[Bird in Hand] exhibits an unsparing eye for the telling details that reveal how people think and act.” (Library Journal)

“Kline explores the complications of the lines and bonds between marriage and friendship with honest and complex emotions on all four narrative fronts.” (Booklist)

“In BIRD IN HAND, Christina Baker Kline looks at marriage, at parents and children, pain and sorrow, and at all the questions that life asks us. This is a wise and lovely book.” (Roxana Robinson, author of Cost)

“Christina Baker Kline is a relentless storyteller. Once she sets her hook and starts reeling you in, struggle becomes counterproductive. The narrative line is too taut, the angler at the other end too skillful.” (Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and That Old Cape Magic)

“It is both thrilling and terrifying to read this powerful new novel and think: this could be me. Christina Baker Kline takes us on an intimate journey with her characters, one that brings us dangerously close to the hidden truths about love, trust and friendship.” (Ellen Sussman, author of Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex; Bad Girls: 25 Writers Misbehave; and On a Night Like This)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688177247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688177249
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christina Baker Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is the author of five novels: Orphan Train, Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is co-editor, with Anne Burt, of About Face: Women Write about What They See When They Look in the Mirror and co-author, with Christina L. Baker, of The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk about Living Feminism. She has edited three other anthologies: Child of Mine, Room to Grow, and Always Too Soon. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University from 2007 to 2011, Kline has also taught literature and creative writing at Yale, NYU, UVA, and Drew University. A graduate of Yale, Cambridge University, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing, Kline is a recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship and several research fellowships, and has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Kline lives with husband and three sons in Montclair, New Jersey. She is at work on another novel and an anthology.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The thing about Bird in Hand is it's so darn page-turning GOOD! It rises far beyond a story of four people and two marriages to explore how our stories, our pasts, and our smallest gestures reveal who we are and what we need --without ever sermonizing. And it reveals how each loss -- no matter how searing -- always carries within it the the possibility of a new life.

Christina Baker Kline (how have I not read her before? That's going to be rectified!) focuses on four individuals: Alison, a suburban mother of two who is losing her bearings after a tragic accident that was not her fault and her husband Charlie, who has gradually absented himself from the marriage because of his obsession with her best friend. That friend is Claire, a flighty femme fatale and a debut author who's married to Ben, a kind and meticulous Harvard-educated architect.

It could be the stuff of melodrama...but in Kline's capable hands, it is not. In one telling passage, Kline writes about Claire, "It wasn't like Claire had fallen out of love with as more like she had drifted, the way you do on a plastic float in a pool with your eyes closed, moving away from the edge without realizing it..." All of these characters in their own way are drifting. They are all living false lives -- some without even realizing it -- and going through the motions.

Each of these characters are flesh and blood people, complete with back story that reveals how they came to be who they are and why they make the choices they do. Whether it's Alison breathing in the aloe-scented baby wipes and antibacterial ointment she puts on her young toddler's finger or Ben doing his crossword puzzles to avoid the anxiety of building emotional chaos...
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Chad Taylor on August 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Bird in Hand" is, apparently, Christina Baker Kline's fourth novel and if it's any indication, I'm sorely missing out by not having read the previous three. This is a deftly written novel. She handles uncomfortable--at times heart wrenching--topics with aplomb and her characters are absolutely pitch perfect. I will freely admit to opening the book with lower expectations since, as I admit in this review's title, I'd not been familiar with her work before. However, from the books opening hook straight through the interweaving of the characters journeys the author manages to engage and envelope you. Most surprisingly, I found the story to actually be, in a way, cathartic; we all experience the ebb and flow of love, friendship, trust and passion, and "Bird in Hand" has several moments that capture all that pain and excitement and genuine conflicting desire sublimely.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By GamingLady on April 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Always on the lookout for a new author, I stumbled across Orphan Train, I read it and thought that Christina was a pretty good author......her book was pretty straight forward, and interesting to read. I figured out fairy soon on that she liked to tell the story of a number of people all at the same time but in Orphan Train she kept the lines fairy knew who was who.
As soon as I finished I ran to find another one by her........and I picked Bird in the Hand.
I really, really wanted to like this book. But I didn't.

Bird in the Hand involves two couples who are friends and whose lives are interconnected, tragedies happen, and there is fallout. Much like a war. The story line was weak if non-existent....everyone was tiptoeing around the issues, leaving the reader to constantly stop and say "now who was Claire married to ... again"... or Allison was married to Ben or Charlie and having to back track to figure it out. The writer slipped out of the now, back to college days, back to now, back and forth......trying to keep up was a lot of work.
The sex scenes seemed forced, like the one preforming the act was actually doing so to punish themselves, I don't know ...each reader may see that differently.

When the jig was up and everyone knew what the truth was did they act at all the way a scorned husband or wife would act, nope they just acted like, ok this part of my life is lets get ready for act II. Alison took it way too well considering that she will be left alone to support and raise two children alone while her ex goes off to live a peter pan life with someone else. At any rate, this book just did not work for me. Would I suggest it to a friend? No
Would I read it again? No
I cannot say if I would read another book by this author.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Erin D. Sipes on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
bird in hand by Christina Baker Kline tells the story of intertwined couples Charlie and Allison and Ben and Claire. Pretty early on in the book an accident happens that brings the characters to a point of no return. They are forced to deal with the feelings, desires and doubts that they know will completely redefine their lives. The story centers on Allison, the woman with the perfect life. With a pretty successful career under her belt Allison is the quintessential housewife with a loving husband, daughter and son all neatly tucking into their suburban home. However, bet you knew that was coming, the more we start to gaze into her life the more we see the inattentive husband, the almost desperate 'part-time' job and the constant comparison/contrast with her best friend Claire.

In addressing Charlie and Allison's farce of a marriage Kline speaks with an honest voice about the delicate dance partners play in these unfortunate scenarios. It's this honesty that really endeared the characters to me, even the ones I didn't want to like. So much of adult life is made up of the things we don't say, the feelings we don't acknowledge and these things turn into sleeping babies we tiptoe around and avoid every day. We know they're going to wake up but we go through the motions anyway to save those last few moments of quiet. Those last few moments of how things use to be.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I whole-heartedly recommend it.

(I received this book through a [...] giveaway. All remarks are my honest opinion.)
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