It was a bit of coincidence to read Birds in Fall right after reading Bel Canto. The books had such similar feelings. The mood that was created had to do with isolation from the real world and, too, the loss of normal time patterns. Both deal with a disaster that puts the main characters in a type of limbo. I talked about that mood that was described so well in Bel Canto in the review just before this one.
The encapsulation into a temporary existence in Bel Canto was the result of members at a party for dignitaries being held hostage at the hands of terrorists. In Birds in Fall a different type of catastrophe produces a similar situation for a group of people who lost loved ones in a plane crash off the coast of Nova Scotia. The airlines arrange for families of the crash victims to fly and stay in Nova Scotia for a brief period of time. Some of those family members stay at a little inn very near the site of the crash. Each person is dealing with his or her own trauma that insulates them from the others. As the days go by little shared moments cause the cocoon to open and include the other's. Instead of disappearing the cocoon grows to surround the group and keep them in a time warp as they deal with the losses they are suffering.
Bel Canto was told by a woman author and Birds in Fall by a male author. The stories are different and both are wonderfully told. But reading them so close together I couldn't help but be aware of how each author skillfully depicted a feeling, a mood, of life being placed on hold. People going through the motions of life, but cut off from the normal work-a-day life they had so recently been involved in.
There was a lot of symbolism involving the migration of birds. Here's one example:
"How is a story like a bird?"
"It keeps us aloft. It flies. It goes from one place and lands at another, seemingly at random. But its movements are carefully choreographed, and if you look closely, you'll know exactly where it will next perch."