This book is a piece of art (not pun intended sonce is the story of a painter xD). I'm so glad I picked it up because of its pretty cover. I read the back and it got me intrigued, but it's what I've found in its first pages that bewitched me to the point I lost track of time. For the past two night I went to sleep way after 2 am.
The story is beautifully written, the characters are crazy interesting and the descriptions of places and and things create a picture so vivid that you can actually see what the writer saw.
You simply have to read it!
The Gravity of Birds
Originally published: 2013
Author: Tracy Guzeman
(reading time: May 13 - May 18)
I wake earlier, now that the birds have come
And sing in the unfailing trees.
On a cot by an open window
I lie like land used up, while spring unfolds.
Now of all voyagers I remember, who among them
Did not board ship with grief among their maps?—
Till it seemed men never go somewhere, they only leave
Wherever they are, when the dying begins.
For myself, I find my wanting life
Implores no novelty and no disguise of distance;
Where, in what country, might I put down these thoughts,
Who still am citizen of this fallen city?
On a cot by an open window, I lie and remember
While the birds in the trees sing of the circle of time.
Let the dying go on, and let me, if I can,
Inherit from disaster before I move.
O, I go to see the great ships ride from harbor,
And my wounds leap with impatience; yet I turn back
To sort the weeping ruins of my house:
Here or nowhere I will make peace with the fact.
They spend the afternoon together and when she leave she forgets her book. She goes back and - while picking up her books, she notices - among the others - a sketch of her sister naked.
Present time Thomas is in his 70s and he is now a famous artist, he calls in his friend Finch (an art professor same age) and tells him he has a painting he wants to sell. Thomas asks Finch to contact Stephen (31) an art authenticator who had some bad luck in his career. Stephen slept with his former boss' wife, and now he's at the bottom of the ladder, and he would do anything to go back to the top. The painting is something unexpected. In the painting we have a young Thomas sitting on a couch with two young girls at his sides, after a first analysis, Stephen notices the painting is actually the central piece of a triptych and he asks where are the two parts that are missing. Thomas confesses the two other pieces are in possession of the two girls: Alice and Natalie, but he doesn't now where they are. Stephen needs this job so he and Finch start looking for the two women.
October 1971. Alice (22) has Rheumatoid Arthritis and she is struggling with her life, so she takes some time away from school and goes to the cabin on the lake to spend some time away from everybody. One afternoon she's out alone on a boat when a sudden storm traps her in the middle of the lake. Thankfully Thomas goes to her rescue. She didn't know he was there and he's the last person she wants to see because, even if 8 years have passed by since the last time she saw him, she still can't forgive him for sleeping with her sister. They fight, they talk, and finally - when Thomas admits he didn't sleep with her - she forgives him. They talk about her condition and how it's affecting her life and her dreams and - in oder to show her she can still be whatever she wants to be he ties his wrist to hers and helps her painting a bird. That little V figure makes her extremely happy and she asks Thomas if they can paint the cabin the way she say it, coming back from the dock in the storm. They never get around that because they find a better way to spend their time together. Alice has never been so happy in her entire life and all she wants to do is spend the rest of her life in bed next to Thomas when she notices a scar on his lower back and she remember something her sister said to her. Thomas lied to her and Alice steals a porcelain bird from Thomas' room (a very important object that Thomas stole from his mother to make her feel the loss he felt when she abandoned him) and disappears.
Alice is now 58 and she lives with her sister in Tennessee. They left their home in Connecticut after a storm damaged their childhood home in the summer of 1972. On the same day of the storm Alice got birth to a baby girl. When she wakes up in the hospital the morning after Natalie tells her the baby is dead. After they move Natalie takes control over everything. She has changed after that summer in 1962. A few months before they went to the lake house Natalie was pregnant, and her parents forced her to get an abortion (since she was just 17) causing Natalie to be unable to have kids of her own. She has always been extremely manipulative and she grew up to be an extremely hard woman.
Finch and Stephen follows the little clues they can find. One day - while going through Thomas' old mail he finds 2 letters from Natalie. One contains a photo of a pregnant Alice and the words: Thomas, I know what you did. and the other is a photo of Natalie with a 2 year old girl in her arms who's clearly Thomas's offspring.
Natalie dies suddenly and Alice needs to go through her finances and documents to see what she can do and she finds out Natalie never sold the house in Connecticut, she rented it and she sent money to their old housekeeper (who helped Alice delivering the baby in the storm) for years. She puts together all the clues and she finds out her daughter is alive. She's 35 now and she lives in Santa Fe. Alice decides to go look for her daughter. Agnete is an artist as her father and she lives in a city full of artist. Alice meets a man in a gallery and they start talking about Thomas and he makes her notice Thomas - after 1972 - put in each of his painting the same bird.
Stephen and Finch figure out as well that Thomas has a daughter and she might be able to help them find Alice and the two other parts of the painting. One of the two painting is indeed in the hands of Alice's daughter. Its the left part of the painting and is the same picture that Natalie sent to Thomas. Natalie is holding his and Alice's daughter in her arms, victory in her eyes. Stephan sends the pictures of the painting and of him, Alice and Agnete (the daughter) to Thomas who suddenly dies.
After the news the group moves back to Tennessee to pick up some things and then go back to New York for the funeral. Stephen figures out where the third painting is: in the attic. The third part of the triptych is an image of Alice as the first picture Natalie sent to Thomas. She is happy looking up with that same bird on her shoulder. There's also another painting in the same crate addressed to Alice that Natalie kept hidden from her: it's the cabin in the storm seen from the dock, with the V birds on the top corner with a message: "Alice, Do not let grief be the only map you carry, lest you lose your way back to happiness. T." (like in the poem in the book she wanted to show him and she left behind when she found the sketch in Thomas' cabin. TEARS ╥﹏╥).
Finch gives to Alice all the letters Thomas sent her and Natalie sent back without even showing them to her and - on a drawer in his desk - Finch also finds a letter for Stephen written by Thomas. Stephen is Thomas' son, and he asked Finch to go find the painting not because he wanted his work back but because he wanted Stephen to find his half sister and to reunite these people together.
I was shipping Alice and Thomas so damn hard... Bloody Natalie! And also Thomas never knew Alice believed their daughter was dead, and that's why she didn't tell him she was pregnant. Because of Natalie they never had the chance to be a family (as Alice says). Natalie was jealous because Thomas always loved Alice, and never really wanted her... Alice also had his baby (not just a normal baby but a baby with the only man who didn't fall for her), something she could never have.
This book is a must read and if you are reading this review you just have to go get this book, sit down, read from cover to cover, and come back here to say I was right!
I would not be surprised if someone decides to put it into a Movie one of these days... Good luck with that, because I can't imagine how could someone give it the justice it deserves. I'm looking very much forward to the next book from this author! (less)