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Bird in Hand: A Novel Paperback
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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.” (RealSimple.com, 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 ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I wasn't a fan of this book. What did the title have to do with the book? The story was predictable, honestly. Alison went through something horrible, then went through something else horrible. The author could have shown the main characters finding themselves as a couple again after a tragedy, coming together, making something good come from the accident, such as teaching the importance of safety seats, not drinking and driving. Maybe moving back to the city, finding the spark that brought them together. That was all just glossed over. Instead of Charlie and Claire being just horrible people that you hate and Alison being a total doormat.
Alison drinks more than she should, ant it prevents her from avoiding a car accident. A small boy dies, and she must live with the haunting effects. Even though it is not entirely her fault, she suffers tremendously, affecting her marriage and the care of her children. She is temporarily mired in depression.
Her husband cannot provide the same kind of love because he is in love with Alison's best friend. He gradually w ithdraws from her, as he becomes more involved with Claire to the point of wanting a divorce.
When Alison discovers she must go back to work, she suffers from being away while raising her two children. At first, she lacks confidence, but she doesn't give up, even after being turned away. Eventually, her former boss gives her a break, and she begins to see that her life is actually more fulfilling than when she was married. It is not easy being a single mother, but she finds a new meaning for the phrase, a bird in hand.
This is the second of Kline's novels I've read, and I will read more. Her understanding of human needs and frailties make her writing meaningful for me.
The story's main focus is on adultery and how it affects each person in the two families as well as the family dynamics. The writing is excellent. All four of the main characters are well developed and that is something I enjoy in a book.
The story is told by each of the characters. That did not bother me, as each was well developed and I liked seeing the viewpoint of each character for the same events. What I didn't like was the way much of the story went backwards. I kept having to check the dates to see when things happened. However, I did get used to this. Overall, I enjoyed the novel and hated putting it down, but I liked the "Orphan Train" better. However, she wrote "The Orphan Train" after "Bird in Hand" and the added experience may have been a factor.
I thought the writing was great. Kline shows off that which is unsaid in the marriage and how relationships that one assumes to be so deep can actually be very shallow when given a hard look. I found that the book exposed things that we don't generally like to dwell on, which made it both interesting but also an uncomfortable read. I didn't love any of the four characters. In fact I found them kind of boring, a bit cliche and generally self absorbed (especially Charlie). But I did enjoy how slowly the story showcased the holes in the relationships. Kline invites you to look behind the white picket fence fairy tale for the truth.
Any book that makes you ask reflect on your own life I find to be a worthwhile read. And this does make you think about all that goes unsaid because we don't have to acknowledge some of our biggest fears.