Acquired Book By: I have been attending the #HistoricalFix chats since they originated as the #IShall chat celebrating the release of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s “I Shall Be Near to You”. Throughout the past two years since the quarterly chats began, I have found a tribe of like-minded bookish souls who celebrate the devourment of compelling historical fiction in all it’s variant creations (from traditional to romance to suspense to biographical #HistFic & everything in-between!). During the chats, there are a flood of questions and happy chatter surrounding the ‘honoured guests’ of the hour wherein you have the opportunity to win a novel by one of the authors. I happily won “The Gravity of Birds” during the March 2015 #HistoricalFix chat on Twitter.
I received a complimentary copy of “The Gravity of Birds” UK edition direct from the author Tracy Guzeman without obligation to post a review. I had the option to receive the UK edition of the novel, which I happily received. My edition comes with a lovely author Q&A after the story which I look forward to reading in full! I wanted to post my ruminative thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and to share my impressions with the readers of my blog. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
How a book’s birthday healed my heart about the day
I launched #JLASblog!
Quite curiously, despite the fact I *launched!* Jorie Loves A Story on the 6th of August, 2013 after exhausting myself the previous month of July to make sure it was ‘audience ready’ – I had a bit of grievance with myself over the selection of the ‘date’. Silly, I realise it might sound aloud to reveall that tidbit, but there it is! I was caught up in the numerical identity of my blog’s history as even though it was missing a few digits, I have oft felt a “7” is stronger than a “6”. It’s a matter of faith & a personal quirk of mine, apparently! I still compose interview questions in increments of 5 or 7 rather than 6; even though recovering a better perspective on my blog’s birthday has been a lift of joy.
It wasn’t until I attended the #HistoricalFix chat in March of 2015 where I crossed paths with Ms Guzeman where I realised something quite extraordinary! I had only been looking at this from a linear prospective of where my perception of the 6th of August was a bit slated against my own misgivings rather than seeking to find *something!* which anchoured the day to a happier memory than whether or not I should have waited 24 hours to launch the site live! OY vie. The things we humans subject ourselves too!
In case your wondering – I created Jorie Loves A Story on the 31st of March, 2013 (my blogoversary) whilst I consider the day it launched live to the world on the 6th of August, 2013 to be my blog’s birthday – two special days per annum where I remember & celebrate the origins of my blog whilst embracing the memories of the stories, writers, conversations & adventures of being the bookish soul behind the bookish blog. Mind you, I need to remember my Twitterversary is on the 13th of November, 2013! These days are as special to me as my own birthday!
Here are my responses to her question pertaining to the thematic of her story:
Art, Song & Dance evoke such a harmonic cognition inside me,
it’s felt by heart, mind & soul; beauty (lies) in art (see tweet)
Love fantasy art such as SteelGoddess (etsy)
who bridge the natural world w/ the fantastic; joy (resides) in nature (see tweet)
I fell in love with the artistry of SteelGoddess whilst finding her shoppe on Etsy for artistic stationery which I knew would give me such a lot of inspiration whilst composing thoughts to articulate to my friends through postal correspondence!
I haven’t been on Etsy in quite a few years, as I’ve been focusing on building my reading audience on jorielovesastory.com whilst defining my blogosphere presence as a whole. I’ve also been taking the past four years to address how I want to re-define and develop this space of mine into more than just a repository of book showcases & guest author features, as I’m a writer whose in the transitional period of re-focusing on her own stories.
Whilst at the same time, I want to share other interests of mine (i.e. knitting) which are creatively enriching to me as they divert my attention a bit from the bookish world & help me re-balance myself in other pursuits! Therefore, I had *no idea!* the happy news, of the SteelGoddess’s shoppe going through a re-genesis of it’s own: check out the newly launched Cheryl Baker Art!
As a good primer to understand what draws me to her artwork & stationery goods, kindly take a look-see at this beautiful new stationery set of papers! Her main website is one of enchantment & inspiring joy, as well! Honestly, I think I’ll order directly from her website in the future & help celebrate the natural world she brings to the world of art!
As you well see, the artist I found on Etsy had a profound affect on me – as I felt as soon as I saw her woodland creatures, I had encapsulated a piece of my walks in nature in such an expression of enchanted art as to fuse my experience through her artistic imagery. This is why I knew the answer to Ms Guzeman’s question was partially inspired by my own adventures and the ones I feel I’ve lived through Ms Baker’s artwork!
Did it really!? I never knew the ‘day’ Gravity of Birds published, but if it were the 6th, it feels kismet! I had no idea my blog’s birthday (as I separate the two days: blogoversary for the day I created it; birthday for the day it went live; a bit like a book birthday = publication day?) had such a special ‘attachment’ to an author! I love finding this out because there are always interesting stories behind things in life; and clearly I was meant to read this novel! :)
-my initial reaction to the publication date of The Gravity of Birds
and I had this to say in relation to when Ms Guzeman picked up on the fact I write in my own personally stylised AmeriBritish vernacular:
You’re quite apt at seeing the differences in how I spelt my words, but actually, it’s a choice I made to limit my dyslexic slips whilst writing and communicating by written dialogue! I expound a bit on this under “My Bookish Life” where I talk a bit openly about my path as a writer and as a book blogger, but suffice to say, my UK heritage allowed me a grace in understanding how words appear in context to what I want to articulate as previously I stumbled in how to formulate the expressions.
Moreso as an adult rather than as a child, I have found my dyslexia to become a bit of an issue nowadays vs when I was in school. Coincidentally, through a bit of online research, I uncovered a quirky revelation: I was led to believe I had mild dyslexia as a child but according to my research I am severely dyslexic!
I had a bit of a bubble of a laugh at first because I’ve grown so accustomed to compensating for my learning difficulties, it did not feel revolutionary to me. It did help me understand a few things which make me a bit unique or how I perceive things might be considered unique, but in the end, I am who I am, someone I was always proud of being. I found dyslexia a gift but understanding my limitations as a writer and compensating by exchanging my American English for my Ancestral British turnt out to be the biggest blessing I could receive!
I’m named after my maternal grandmother who was of British and Irish descent. I’m British doubly over as my father’s side of the family has UK roots as well, spilt between England & Scotland. I have a heap ‘more’ in me as well, but these are quite dominant.
The language of the Brits feels right to me, and each new word or phrase I have learnt, becomes fuell to my own imagination as far as where I can take my own writings in the future.
As you can imagine – winning a copy of “The Gravity of Birds” took on a whole new level of joy & creative curiosity! I am naturally drawn to reading stories from the UK – not only because I am wickedly addicted to reading authors who reside in the UK, but because, I personally *love!* the tangible fluid nature of how British English evolves through the descriptive narrative! I watch a high volume of British (& Canadian) television serials & films as well, which parlays concurrently with my literary wanderings!
When Ms Guzeman offered me the chance to read the UK edition of this novel, my heart swooned in joy! I did not even think this was a possibility but a welcomed unexpected bookish slice of happiness! One day I’m looking forward to when there is an online bookshoppe in the UK who will ship UK editions to American readers who crave their fix of UK authors! (technically, I know of one in the stages of doing this!)
Til then, I am blessed to have a copy of The Gravity of Birds and be a reviewer for UK-based publishers! Conversely, even if a novel is written by an American author such as this one, my first preference is to seek out the UK edition as it’s one of the editions outside of it’s original printing I am most desiring to read! Even if the language isn’t full-on Brit, it’s having an edition published outside my own country which makes it a special treat – as book covers are unique to their country of origin..
Through this experience, I realised the date I selected to launch my blog was ‘meant to be’ – not only because it shares a very special book birthday with an author I would one day cross paths with to discover, but because sometimes the ‘timing’ which is best in our lives to experience something is not of our choosing.
Life has a way of blissfully keeping us in suspended joy arriving in unexpected moments which provide us an incredible level of happiness. Here’s to remaining open to where our hours lead us to traverse & keeping the door open to the unexpected!
The Gravity of Birds
Places to find the book:
on 6th August, 2013 (USA) | 15th August, 2016 (UK)
The UK edition released 9 days after the 6th of August, 2013!
The American debut was published by Simon & Schuster!
Converse via: #GravityOfBirds + #TimeShift
buried secrets let out their own truths:
I nearly reached the halfway point in this novel before I realised with a murmur of joy this is a Time Shift novel – as we constantly are moving between the Sixties, the Seventies and the 2000s (and a few timescapes in-between). Each time we feel rooted to the hour inside one scene or another, we shift forward or we shift backwards – developing this rhythm of moving through time as we’re meant to discover pertinent information about the main characters: Thomas and Alice. I felt this story was centred most on Alice – she was the teenage girl coming-of age without the fullness of realising what it meant to feel something outside of what would be appropriate for her age. Whilst as an artist Thomas was at a crossing point of where he was still developing his sense of whom he would be in the future – both shared a sense of developing their own character; of choosing which path to follow.
Whilst we shift we are finding how buried secrets let out their own truths as this was readily apparent the second time Alice meets with Thomas during a thunderous rainstorm. She was college-aged but still wise enough to pull the pieces of what is unspoken and unshared together – bits of memory gave her the leverage she needed to ferret out the truths but where she supposed she learnt the truth about everything, there was a part of me which felt she was still missing a few details which would give gravity to everything at hand.
My Review of The Gravity of Birds:
The story opens with such a sombering and emotionally convicting poem – you can feel the anguish and the angst bleeding out of the words. A woman at a proper loss to understand how to shift forward when all around her stand ashes of a previous life. A devolved recess of uncertainty married by the tentacles of memory she’d soon forget. Such a powerful statement in which to move past before residing inside the story Guzeman left us to find,..
We are entering into the internal reflections of Alice, of whom is an internalist of observational reflections she has crafted together from overheard conversations, reading body language of an artist she’s keenly interested in visiting and the woesome thoughts all young girls contemplate during their growing years. She’s betwixt and between those moments where you are fully grown into your own skin and understand your place in the world. She’s teetering on the edge of understanding more than she had previously, but still has a bit of naivete inside her to where she’s responsively open to new experiences. Her parents are less so, as they have a bit of a jaded response to their vacation rental neighbouring artist; listening to her father put it, you’d take him as a derelict and a sponger off the kindnesses of others.
Two sisters who approach life at opposite ends of the spectrum of where living with a healthy curiosity and living recklessly through rash choices could possibly entertain the same DNA were vacationing with their parents at a lakeshore where innocence was easily lost. Alice and her sister Natalie brought to mind the sisters from Dirty Dancing, where each wanted to have more experience but might have gone about producing it a bit round the bush so to speak. In this particular case, Natalie is the daring sister who doesn’t quite think before she acts and has a bit of a narcissistic quality to her and doesn’t seem overly attached to being ‘someone’s’ sister. For Alice, it’s her fourteenth Summer, a transitional period of growth and one prime for introspection. She’s on the verge of understanding her affliction – a secret she harbours from her parents and a knowing glimmer of truth etching out of the pain and repetitive nature of it’s presence.
A considerable time escapes us as we are propelled forward from the early 60s into the early 2000s, whereupon the artist who charmed Alice has grown in popularity and artistic fame. His career has been a bit as you would have expect it to go – he was still the charmer who could make any girl swoon over him whilst he demanded quite a bit out of his close circle of trusted souls. Here is where we meet Finch – their connection is a bit on the fringes of our view at first, as we’re peering into how Finch feels about being at Thomas’s beck and call; not a position he felt he warranted but one he accepted, if only to be in the artist’s orbit of recognition. We find Thomas is moving within the art circles as we had hoped he might when Alice first met him at the Summer cabin; lack-lorn and sorely lacking in self-confidence but with a keen sense about how art motivated him to be the one who creates what lies on the canvas.
Decades have slipped through Thomas’s fingers – as carelessly as the sand in an hourglass, a part of him not wanting to create anything new and yet, a portion of his spirit is undone by the suppression of one of his paintings. A painting he wants Finch to help him showcase (which in effect is a fractured trust between the two) but without the knowledge of why Thomas feels it so very pertinent to be drawn back out from the annals of his earlier days – where art flowed freely out of his heart and where the canvas felt alive with colour. Finch we find out is a Art History Professor and Art Critic – a unique combination and one which yields it’s own heartache, as Finch never feels comfortable within the art world, as he considers himself an outsider; a mere bystander to the ones who create the art he feels passionate about understanding.
If there were ever a character you could instinctively want to distance yourself from upon first meeting, it would be the vile Stephen in this novel. He has a mind for Art History and he’s incredibly gifted in his field, but what doesn’t account for his intellect is his curiously vacant ways of understanding how to be human. He makes excuses for himself when things go south and on top of that personality quirk, he has the tendency of seeing only the darker shades of humanity. There is a particular disturbing projection of his conscience thoughts where he attempts to dismantle someone bit by bit if only out of the spite of not enjoying their company. He’s self-praising bent on vengeful pride which eludes to his delusion of how he views the world – as if everything rotates round him in earnest haste to falter his efforts to succeed.
Where Stephen vexes me something fierce, Finch is a curious fellow you feel empathy for straightaway; he’s in a peculiar position – he understands Thomas to a degree of insight most would never had taken an interest in examining yet Thomas leaves him in the dark about one of the most important paintings of his life. You could feel the anguished disappointment, the concern of how this omission would affect the connection between Thomas and Finch but moreso, it struck a chord towards trying to understand Thomas on a psychological level. He wasn’t an artist who liked to share of himself – he left this to his paintings – but as Finch finds his trust in Thomas has been one-sided – we start to wonder about the missing pieces we have yet to find revealled. What drew Thomas to being such a recluse of talent – where he would put down his paints and withdraw from society as well? What could have fractured his life in such a way to leave him emotionally despondent?
There is a critical issue at hand – the missing painting which is not a singular affair but a triptych – where only one of the three paintings is present. Thus ensuing a bit of a chase to find where the missing sisters (Alice and Natalie) have gone off to these past decades since their Summer of 63 crossed paths with an unknown artist who happened to be their neighbour. This brings the story back to centre – of why we were given a small glimpse into the Summer of 63, of finding Alice and Natalie just as they were – with the mere hint of ‘something more’ not yet known. There was a mark of a sinister undertone – of growth ahead of maturity or circumstances complicating young lives on the periphery of your perspective of how they were originally presented.
I personally celebrated a return to Alice’s point-of-view – she re-enters the scene in Autumn of 71, fully aware of why her body was attacking her as a teenager and at a crossroads of sorts about her life. Her maturity has always been a bit ahead of herself – in how she understands the wider scope of things and how in order to live adaptive to life’s adversities, you first have to set your attitude in which to approach them. This is the Alice I had fond memories of in the beginning, of the girl who had a somber grit of self-acceptance whilst dreaming of the life she could live as a champion of birds. She loved the uniqueness of birds and how their distinctions in both personality and nature were as readily intriguing as any mystery to be solved. Her grief did not overshadow her spirit nor did her ache to find the sister she felt was lost inside her memories erode away her hope for tomorrow. Alice had a fiercely strong soul – where she did not quit on life simply because life was muddled and adverse. She had every reason to find fault with living but it was the art of living to the best of her ability which strengthened her resolve.
It wasn’t until the road trip where I started to see Stephen and Finch in a light of honesty; both men held so much back from themselves, daring others to sort them out simply by the few clues they shared. I cannot say I entirely warmed to Stephen, even here, whilst understanding what made him the way in which he was but if anything, there is a degree of understanding – of seeing why Stephen is the way he is rather than the way he first appeared. Finch had revealled himself prior to the trip but expanded on the details – he was walking in awe of Thomas, of trying to circle the artist if only to learn how to be more like him even if that was not his fate. He was a man who focused on the legacies we leave behind – not the ordinary ones where our families will keep our memories as cherished keepsakes close to their heart but rather, of how the outside world chooses to chronicle the lives of those who contribute to the global synthesis of the arts.
Finding Alice and Natalie shuttered away in a state such a long distance from their home of Connecticut was a bit of startling discovery but not as so, if you factor in certain things they disclose. It’s how Natalie became Alice’s champion and knight; protecting her and supporting her which surprised me the most. The sisters were aggrieved with each other for most of the time we get to know them – yet in this one fittingly humble moment of re-birth (wherein they reset their lives) we find Natalie agreeable to being her sister’s caretaker.
The art of chasing down Provence in the art world is a unique trade – one which I was quite thrilled to be caught up inside as Stephen’s character grew outside of his own affairs and nestled into the curious circumstances behind the triptych itself. I especially love when modern science is inserted to explain how those who study paintings for authenticity have such a bevy of resources at their fingertips to encourage even the armchair art sleuth to sit up a bit straighter! They can indue things simply by the scans they can create ontop of the paintings whilst noting the subtle changes in pigment, stroke marks and even if how many layers are truly present vs what are suspected. I was wicked fascinated watching the process of tracing the footsteps of Thomas’s artwork.
Phinneaus had found a way to befriend Alice at a moment in her life where she’d rather welcome death even if it was not in her to yield against her own will to survive to live more days than she felt she deserved. He was her new neighbour in the oddly small towne her sister had chosen for them when they flew from their family home. She had carved out a life for herself – a bit differently shaped than she previously lived but a life all the same where she had companionship. It was here where she would find the beauty of life and the ways in which life can affect you when you aren’t expecting to feel the fuller gravity of the hours you’re living. Her older self (in her fifties) saw some of the errors of her younger half – of feeling too deeply the differences between youth and adulthood; of focusing on what she felt was ‘lost’ and without the benefit of seeing how much of the world she could still choose to snatch a hold of and live a well-rounded life. Phinneaus is a character you feel close too as soon as you meet him; he has a Southern friendliness about him which endears to your heart.
The irony of all is how Alice and Natalie were more alike than they were opposite – sadly, it’s how their lives pulled apart and pulled together in opposing frequencies which truly grieved you as you read their story. This is a story gently told with clarified reality about how lives can be shattered by the impulse choices which have a lasting effect on a person’s spirit and heart. It also speaks to the interconnecting rhythms of how tide and time can not erase the buried truths of the past – of how trying to escape what was once known can never fully become erased. Each of them in turn (Thomas, Alice and Natalie) had something to give and something to take from each other – it’s how they fit together and fit apart which held the most to be understood.
On the intuitive writing style of Tracy Guzeman:
Guzeman has a calming way of depositing you into her story-line, in such a fashion as if this isn’t her first novel but rather one of several; the poise she exhumes is wonderfully placed. You can get into her writerly muse quite easily, as the words spilt onto the page quite effortlessly (or so they appear) to a rhythmic pace of insight towards what is motivating her characters. Her she tapped into a chronic illness’s personality such as the rheumatic mannerisms expressed by Alice is a class act as she presents it without making it sound medical; her approach is more personal than anything sterile or contrite.
You dearly consume Guzman’s narrative quite hungrily enjoying seeing the journey she’s given her characters. She has such a calm ease about her writing style. Guzman has definitely mastered the art of granting the reader a fast entrance into her story, anchouring them emotionally to the conviction of the novel’s heart and giving them something to chew on at each turn of a chapter! She even pushes you a bit outside your comfort zone – of where you think you are willing to tread in a Contemporary Suspense where the world of art and the fragility of human psychological health are interspersed into the background of her narrative. The Suspense itself is of the illusions of memory – of where time erodes truth and where lies can be swept out of sight either by direct omission, repressed memory or the inability to reconcile circumstances of one’s past. It’s haunting a bit – to be on the cusp of understanding the fuller picture only to be lead directly away from it – to put a button on pause on the growing drama surrounding the original characters you meet and to step through time until you reach a future date far removed from the opening scene. Yet, is it as removed as one thinks or simply hiding in wait to be re-addressed?
My thoughts on the working title “Triptych” and the finalised “The Gravity of Birds”:
Originally, I could see how Triptych could augment an understanding on behalf of the story, as there is a trifeca of inclusionary focus from three key characters who quite literally carry the story’s core of heart. I could see how if you read the author’s explanation on behalf of the title, how the words individually hold weight towards expressing a cardinal piece of information as well. For me, when I first saw the title, I was curious how the tile would interplay off the central thread of narrative – the only difference I felt is that the gravity of the situation might not always reflect the improbable recollective past of the characters but perhaps the intuitiveness of feeling the ‘weight’ of what afflicts us. Either physically or psychologically wherein we’re unable to feel the freedom of movement or flight from circumstances.
This review has been in the process of being shared & written for the better part of a year. I originally started reading this story in early August of 2016 and I finished reading it on the eve on my 4th Blog Birthday in 2017. It is a joy of mine to finally share the reflections I had whilst I was reading the novel & why this novel gave me so much joy to read. Thus, the top anchour was composed last August & a quarter of the review including the remarks I made about the author’s writing style & the original title. The rest I completed on the 5th of August, 2017.
A very Happy 4th Book Aniversary to The Gravity of Birds
whilst I celebrate a very merry 4th Blog Birthday!
This is different from celebrating my 4th Blogoversary which was 31st March!
Two more special posts are inbound next on #JLASblog:
this week’s The Sunday Post
& End of the Year Survey : Celebrating my Favourite Stories of 2016!
Remember I kick-off my #AustenINAugustRBR participation on 8th August with a special guest post entitled: Diary of a 21st Century Janeite via roofbeamreader.com!
In closing, do you know of other stories which have a publication date of the 6th of August? Especially during the years I’ve blogged or any other year preceding? I love to know which stories share this particular calendar date as they could potentially be a next read I might feel especially blessed to have read. I might even spotlight one of them next year or any year hereafter as I continue to celebrate my blog’s birthday.
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) April 1, 2015
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) April 1, 2015
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) April 1, 2015
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) April 21, 2015
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) August 6, 2016
Let there be cake! Happy Blog Day!
— Tracy Guzeman (@TracyGuzeman) August 6, 2016
— Tracy Guzeman (@TracyGuzeman) August 6, 2016
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) August 6, 2016
Thank you! So glad!!
— Michele Young-Stone (@micheleyosto) August 13, 2016
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) August 7, 2017