Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birds of Paradise, Diana Abu-Jaber

Sunrise was at 5:14,Sunset will be at 9:11, -33 seconds less daylight.

Cool, gray, lushly green, our strawberry runners are heading out across the driveway in ropes, and I have actual peas, maybe 12 beautiful peas dangling from the plants! There are still a few blossoms in pink and maroon bobbing in a very slight breeze. There are bees popping out of the berry blossoms and everything needs a serious trimming.

I stayed home sick last Thursday and, like many of you out there, I took a stack of books with me, just in case. I have a king-size bed and there's plenty of room for shoving stuff over and not having it interfere with thrashing limbs and heat, blanket tossing and pillow burying- I wake up sometimes and there are books between Dennis and me, they may lay there for quite awhile, if we don't make up the bed, just toss the covers back and forth covering and uncovering them. I love my bed. Anyway, I took Rotters (see the last posting) and a couple of grown-up books with me that I really wanted to read.

I don't usually pick up everyday adult reading material because I am often so disappointed with the stories- they are just too slow or I just don't find anything to connect with or they are just too ego-centric, too "this was my story, you'll relate to it" and, no, sorry, maybe someone will, just not me, so I take kid's books and science fiction with me whenever I just need to be entertained.

I spent the day reading Rotters and then, when I got to the ER for blurry eyesight (I'm fine, no stroke, seems to have been an "ocular migraine") and had the 3 hour wait to go home, I was very happy to have had 2 good sized, grown-up, books to pull out of my bag: Birds of Paradise, by Diana Abu-Jaber, and The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach.

I started Birds of Paradise because I am a HUGE fan of Diana's and I am so glad I did. It was SO GOOD! If you are a bookseller, find a galley and read it now! If you aren't a bookseller, call one of us and order it now! or find a bookseller friend and barter to read the galley.

I don't even want to tell you much about it because the details sound so dull: hurricanes, Florida, housing problems....but those are just the points around which the story turns. It's a family in crisis- one of the children has run away desperate to pay penance for the secret she's held for the past years. She's now 18, and the rest of the family seems to have been holding its breath the 5 years she's been gone.

Avis and Brian are still mourning their daughter's leaving and it takes its toll especially on the days Felice calls to make an appointment to meet with her mother. When she doesn't show up, one more time, after Avis has waited for hours, you can feel Avis' deflation and defeat and Brian's anger at how the women in his family treat each other. And, maybe it's time they don't forget that they have another child, a son who has made his own way, owns his own business, and also mourns his sister's disappearance. Such a beautifully written book about how hard it is to be, to stay, a family as things change, how hard it is to know each other and the secrets that shape a life, maybe even especially the lives that share a home.

There are wonderful descriptions of the lushness of the Miami vegetation, the heat, and gorgeous poetic passages about Avis' baking and confections. This book should be accompanied by chocolate croissants and only the very best coffee. (W. W. Norton. Available September 2011. $25.95.)

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