Real life, she knew, was just beginning.
One of the ironies of reading Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline is that its fictional account of the disintegration of a marriage feels far more true to life than two contemporary non-fiction accounts: How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed by Theo Pauline Nestor and Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies. Of the two, I much preferred Nestor’s account but neither narrator seemed as true to me as the character Alison in Kline’s novel.
It may be because Kline gives us not just a story, but the motivations that spur on the individuals. With Alison, it’s disillusionment. “Nothing about her life at the moment was what she’d envisioned for herself when she got married.” Alison’s husband Charlie is moved by the feeling that he’s made the wrong choices for himself. “He was doing this because he could not keep skimming along the surface of his life without one day crashing into something hard and unpleasant… he was convinced he would get only one chance to feel this kind of passion, to express it, to live.”
And then Kline reveals to us that motivation, intent, means little or nothing because all humans on this planet act with incomplete – and flawed – knowledge (quoting Alice McDermott): “As if… what was actual, as opposed to what was imagined, as opposed to what was believed, made, when you got right down to it, any difference at all.” So, ultimately, this is an impressive work about real, flawed individuals doing the best they can at a certain point in their existence, making mistakes but ultimately moving forward. “It was real life, the way things should be, and even as it was happening it felt to Alison like a distant memory, the moment already slipping into the past.”
A great deal of praise should be bestowed on author Kline for creating characters that adult readers can relate to. At one point in Bird in Hand, Kline writes of Alison’s experiences as a young woman, “It was a strange and magical feeling.” Kline has delivered a strange, unique, magical and borderline brilliant story.
Thank you to William Morrow for the review copy.