The Gravity of Birds is part mystery, part love story, part portrait of an artist, and a story about influences in life and longing for paths untraveled. The characters of the novel are phenomenal and I hope that we get to read more of each of them in other stories. I felt like the novel focused most on Alice Kessler, one of the Kessler sisters who became involved with Thomas Bayber, a quiet, recluse of an artist, but other characters will draw your attention.
Alice and her sister Natalie met Thomas when they were young (14 and 17, respectively), when he stayed at his parent’s vacation home and they vacationed with their parents in a home nearby. The story follows Alice into adulthood and fluctuates between the 1970s (when they met Bayber) and current time (2007). In a parallel story, Thomas Bayber has stopped producing art, but has decided to reveal an older, unknown painting to his lifelong friend/agent, Dennis Finch and a washed up art dealer, Stephen Jameson. The painting depicts both Kessler sisters bookending Bayber himself. The mystery begins at this point, because the painting is not only a single undiscovered Bayber original, but the middle part of a triptych. According to Bayber, the two end pieces of the painting reside with the Kessler sisters, who have seemingly disappeared. The novel follows Finch and Jameson as they unravel the past to meet up with the future. The story is interwoven with pieces about Alice and Natalie.
Thomas Bayber was elusive and mysterious. Shortly after he reveals the painting, he has a stroke and becomes mute for remainder of the story. But he is very much an active character and is brilliantly defined by Guzeman by using the people around him. In the end, although he had very few “lines” in the novel, the reader has a very good picture of him. The characters of the Kessler sisters were also quite good. They both were very distinct and each had a story that was easy to relate. The novel is mysterious and engaging and illustrates love in all its facets.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.