The narrator of this novel, seemingly set in the early 1970s, is five-year-old Pigeon. She observes her family s changes during the summer after her parents separation and during which her 16-year-old sister becomes pregnant. Pigeon is bright and remarkably self-sufficient, and as she describes her mother s child-rearing methods, her self-reliance is credible enough to make the story compelling. Her mother takes her; her sister, Dove; and their 10-year-old brother, Robin, to the Jersey Shore, where they move in with the children s uncle. The mother goes to work in a movie house, Dove takes a job at a diner, Robin discovers a deep commitment to fortune-telling, and Pigeon is often left to her own devices from morning until evening. She longs for her father, can t interpret her uncle s relationships with other men, yearns for company during the day, and offers her sister support while longing for some in return. Robin seems to be more alert to Pigeon s needs than anyone else except for their uncle, who is caring but ineffectual as a substitute parent. Pigeon and Robin struggle to understand the changes in their mother when she takes up with a new man and develops a near obsession with a tent revivalist. Markson sews a neat tapestry of family flaws as observed by the not-yet-judgmental Pigeon, making this a sound and interesting choice. --School Library Journal
Looking After Pigeon transports the reader to the Jersey shore in the mid-seventies, with the precocious five-year old Pigeon as narrator and tour guide.
After their father walks out, their mother, Joan, moves Pigeon and her older siblings Robin and Dove to their uncle Edward s house in an un-named New Jersey beach town.
I have heard that in the sixties, they spoke of free love and equally free living. But little of it seemed to have rubbed off on our mother. Order reigns supreme in the house. Their mother is a stickler for rules, and frequently preaches the evils of materialism. Joan gets a job at the local movie theater, determined to stay busy. Later, to the children s surprise, she brings home a man named Cary who becomes a fixture in the house that summer.
Ten-year-old Robin becomes enchanted with a fortune-teller named Edith. He soon starts to believe that he has the gift, that he can predict the future and sets up shop alongside her, Edith marketing him as the boy wonder. Not everyone shares his enthusiasm, as other family members worry that the woman is only using Robin as a novelty to increase her profit. Robin doesn t care and spends most days at Edith s run-down shack.
Sixteen-year old Dove waitresses at Joe Winter s diner. Like the bird she is named after, Dove is beautiful and delicate. She shakes up the family dynamic when she announces she s pregnant with her boyfriend Stan s baby. The news throws the family into a tailspin, as everyone tells Dove how to handle the situation. Complicating matters is the unusually close, flirtatious relationship Dove and her boss have, a relationship that might make people wonder who the father of her baby is.
Although the story takes place only thirty-some years ago, these characters occupy a completely different world. Pigeon is frequently left alone when her family goes to work, something that s unheard of these days. She has a well-cultivated sense of independence. Although she is the youngest, Pigeon acts as a confidante to her brother and sister, who tell her about the escapades with the fortune teller and the pregnancy before any one else. For her part, Pigeon keeps these secrets with a solemnity that belies her age.
Pigeon still has moments that show her true naiveté. Towards the end of the book, she accompanies her uncle Edward into New York for a business day trip. Pigeon sneaks off and tries to find her father, who had recently sent her a postcard from Manhattan. I did not realize the impossibility of my task to find an apartment in New York City with no address, to find among all of the people, only my father .
Reading this novel feels as if you are looking in on a real family instead of a fictional one. Marson s novel expertly captures the rhythms of everyday life. Her writing flows very easily making the story move along at an effortless clip.
Looking After Pigeon is a unique coming-of-age-story. Even though the reader sees everything filtered through Pigeon s eyes, it is just as much about Dove s and Robin s summer of growing older and wiser. I felt a strong attachment to all the characters and flipped the pages eagerly wanting to discover their fates. This engrossing novel has much to recommend it. ---MostlyFiction.com