The Bird House: A Novel by Kelly Simmons (Washington Square Press; $14.00; 272 pages)
“Every family has its secrets.”
“Don’t you know there’s a stronger thing keeping us together?” Pete Ham (“Take It All”)
This is a novel about a family secret. Ann Biddle is a grandmother with a big secret about something that happened in her past. Her granddaughter Ellie is doing research on the family for a school project. Despite declining mental resources, Ann seeks to assist her loved one in filling in the blank spaces in the family’s past while simultaneously hiding the dark event in her own past.
There is, fortunately, not much in the way of detail in the book’s synopsis; this is a plus. The less you, the reader, know about the story before you arrive at the final, 272nd page the better. The read was partly destroyed for me by an early release review that carelessly divulged the secret in question and other key facts. But there will not be a repetition of that here.
“This was the heavy burden of secrets: the longer you held them, the larger they grew, the more people they entangled.”
Second time novelist Simmons has a no-nonsense style that calls to mind Anna Quindlen or Laura Lippman. She neither needlessly embellishes nor writes too sparsely – she provides just enough detail to make you identify with the female protagonist. And Ann Biddle is a real human being, with true strengths and also defects of character. And yet, despite her rapidly failing mental skills, she’s one tough and clever cat; those who think they’re going to get the best of her discover otherwise.
“Things never turn out quite the way you expect, do they? In love or in life.”
At its end, this a tale about honesty and love versus deception and protection. It is also a story that touches upon human hypocrisy – the tendency of some to hold themselves out as one thing while living a life different from the facade they wear: “He always said the right thing, but he didn’t always do the right thing.” It is a novel about powerful secrets, which is why some will be reminded of Fragile by Lisa Unger.
This novel is well worth the read and is well recommended. Just don’t let anyone who has already read it share its secrets with you. Tell them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “I was hooked from the very first page.” Chevy Stevens, author of Still Missing.