By: Tracy Guzeman
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: July 19, 2014
Tracy Guzeman defies the constraints of gravity in her debut novel, The Gravity of Birds, and has penned an absolutely stunning body of work.
Sisters, Natalie and Alice Kessler, are polar opposites. Natalie's beauty is obvious. It is her weapon of choice and in subtle and twisted ways uses it against her younger sister. Alice, on the other hand, is not necessarily a wallflower, but her gift of kindness resides deep within the folds of her being. Growing up in the same household was never easy. The girls were equally loved by both their parents. Years later and after the passing of their parents, trips to the lake house each summer had long-since ended. Natalie's beauty didn't falter, but her life was not what she expected. Since the age of fourteen, Alice had been a victim to the throes of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Once their parents were gone, Natalie's beauty was shelved for the rest of her life in order to live out her days as Alice's caretaker. It is only when Natalie's untimely death occurs that Alice realizes her life could have been the life she was meant to live.
Woven into the intricacies of the Kessler girls' existence is one Thomas Bayber. Nearly twenty years have passed since his summers on the lake in the home in proximity to the Kessler's retreat. Perhaps the reclusive painter, Bayber, had planned all along to resurrect the never seen "Kessler Sisters" rendition at this very moment in time... Dennis Finch had devoted his life to Bayber. How is it after so many years and the recent loss of his beloved wife that Bayber should need him now? Long gone (and somewhat forgotten), the notion of reviving their relationship is more than unsettling for Professor Finch. However, with Bayber, there was always a caveat or condition. When Finch agrees to Bayber's summons to meet, Bayber doesn't disappoint. It seems before he will agree to commission Finch with the sale of his unknown "Bayber masterpiece," he insists Finch must seek the services of (little known) art authenticator, Stephen Jameson.
Ms. Guzeman's prolifically haunting style completely consumed me. It took less than two days for me to devour the words in this 294-page novel and it is difficult to select one passage over another to site. Ms. Guzeman's carefully crafted characters' strengths and weaknesses leach into the readers memory and carry the reader down an endless and meandering river of an amazingly beautiful (and sometimes frustrating) story of disappointments, rivalries and ultimately, hope. There is one scene in particular I was so taken with that I tested it on a few of my (voracious reader) co-workers. Each and every time, their reaction was to look at me with woe begotten eyes and render their interpretation of its meaning to be maudlin. To the contrary, this reader was not only pulled to this passage that describes character Thomas Bayber, but for the remainder of the read, I often wondered if Ms. Guzeman had shed a tear or two when she carefully placed the following words onto her page: "...I was born old. My mother told me once that I looked like a grumpy old man from the moment I was born-wrinkled, pruney face, rheumy eyes. You've heard the expression an old sole? I was born with a head full of someone else's failed dreams and a heart full of someone else's memories..." Ms. Guzeman is worthy of every bit of praise for her near perfect literary prowess and I, for one, cannot wait to read her next novel. Bravo, Ms. Guzeman...bravo!
Quill says: The Gravity of Birds is a journey of desire, loss, resurrection and the underlying premise of 'what if' things had turned out differently. This is an outstandingly beautiful example of how utterly painful it is to arrive at the end of a story that was most certainly meant to be told.