Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tracy Guzeman's The Gravity of Birds - Get Your Hands on It

Tracy Guzeman's 1st novel, The Gravity of Birds, is some kind of debut.  The story takes place over a 44-year period.  Here is Goodreads' synopsis of the book:

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.

There are more protagonists than bit players, and each is interesting in his/her own way.  

Alice Kessler - sister with rheumatoid arthritis

Natalie Kessler - sister with beauty and lots of secrets
Thomas Bayber - tortured artist
Dennis Finch - university professor and Thomas's personal authenticator
Stephen Jameson - disgraced art expert

The book is beautifully written.  In fact, the only reason I gave it a 3.5 instead of a 4 is on me, not Tracy.  This is a book that does not rely on dialogue, although there's plenty of it.  Instead, it oftentimes relies on long and descriptive passages.  And, although the writing is excellent, I found my mind, on occasion, wandering.  Let me restate that this is about my concentration and not Tracy's writing.  

If I can make a comparison, I would liken it somewhat to Barbara Kingsolver.  I finally read my 1st Kingsolver, Flight Behavior, last year.  I have been hearing for many years what a great writer she is.  I have to tell you that I liked the book but didn't love it.  But, just like Tracy, the writing is largely descriptive, with some dialogue.  And let me also tell you that I thought Tracy's writing beat the heck out of Kingsolver's writing.  

I know that there are 4 months left in the year, but I'm pretty darn sure that The Gravity of Birds will be in my top 10 for all of 2013.  And out of 70+ books, that ain't too shabby.


  1. Purely on your recommendation, I began reading this book yesterday. As you can imagine, I'm drawn to the nature aspects/descriptions. I'm less than 50 pages into it, but I'm already enjoying the story and writing a great deal.

    Thanks for nudging me to read it, Lloyd!

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying it. There's a lot of pressure to recommend a book to someone who writes as well as you do!