From Publishers Weekly
Stories nestle inside stories like a set of Russian dolls in Bird's (Virgin of the Rodeo) wonderful fifth novel. Set in the late 1960s, it is narrated by 18-year-old Bernie, the eldest of six children in the peripatetic Root family. After her freshman year in college, Bernie joins her nomadic kin at their current home, an Okinawan air force base. They have changed: her younger sister, Kit, is out of control and "now being played by Lolita"; her once glamorous mother, Moe, is overweight and depressed; her father, who was a heroic and swaggering fighter pilot, has become a distant, self-loathing "ground pounder." And Bernie can't stop thinking of Fumiko, the family's former maidservant, whom no one is allowed to mention. Before being sucked into the family's torpor, Bernie escapes by winning a dance contest that lands her in Tokyo as the stage partner of Bobby Moses, a third-rate borscht belt comedian. There she delves into the past to solve the mystery surrounding Fumiko's disappearance and her family's deterioration. Bernie sharp and snarky, yet severely introverted is a delightful heroine, and the large cast that swirls around her is equally endearing. Particularly fine are the wisecracking yet nurturing Moe and the oddly touching Bobby Moses, who's vulgar and mediocre, but insistent on professionalism. The dialogue is first-rate, and all the '60s brand-name dropping is amusing; the decade becomes fresh again when seen from the unusual perspective of a military family (especially this one) removed from mainland society. (June) Forecast: Bird has David Sedaris's gift for mining scathing wit from family dysfunction. Only one of her earlier novels is still in print, but hopefully her move to Knopf (and a slew of enthusiastic blurbs from the likes of Rick Bass) will help her to win the large readership she deserves.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Bird has created a deftly choreographed journey of the heart, delicate and nuanced in its disclosure of painful family secrets, yet liberally seasoned with robust humor. Readers travel with 18-year-old Bernie Root as she returns from her freshman year of college in the States to visit her military family, currently stationed on Okinawa. The "fresh eyes" with which she views her parents and five younger siblings will resonate with many teens. Beyond this, the complex range of emotions generated by her reentry into life on a military base, with all its familiar, yet insular and confining, characteristics is poignantly captured. Bernie's distress at her parents' deteriorating marriage and her continuing thorny relationship with her beautiful younger sister provide a sober backdrop that is nevertheless leavened by vignettes and hilarious reminiscences of life on the move and the pitfalls of always being the new kid in town. At the core of the story is the protagonist's attempt to unveil the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a beloved servant who lived with the family 10 years prior when they were stationed in Japan, while the father was assigned to a squadron flying surveillance missions shrouded in secrecy. Bernie intuitively senses that discovering Fumiko's fate is key to understanding the forces that are destabilizing her family. The revelations that ensue lead her along a path of self-discovery to a heartrending confrontation with the harsh consequences of one's actions, and to a new level of maturity. A beautifully paced story, especially recommended for (but not limited to) any locale with a military base nearby.
Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.