Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birds in Fall

by Brad Kessler

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."


jenclair said...

I loved Bel Canto, and it has lingered in my consciousness much more clearly than many books. Since you have made this comparison, Birds in Fall will certainly be on my must read list.

Literary Feline said...

I found your comparison of the two books quite interesting. As you know, Bel Canto is one i hope to get to one of these days. I'll have to add the Birds in Fall to my wish list. Thanks for the review!

Les said...

Amazing that you, too, found a commonality between the two books. This is a part of my review for Birds in Fall:

In spite of the tragic subject matter, I fell in love with this quiet, entrancing story and Kessler’s beautifully evocative prose. I found myself reading very slowly, savoring each and every sentence as if they were rare stones, polished to perfection. I also found myself thinking of Ann Patchett’s group of hostages in her exquisite novel, Bel Canto, and how Kessler’s disparate group of family members was thrown together unexpectedly and abruptly just as were Patchett’s: They began as complete strangers, yet over the course of the days and weeks spent with one another, new relationships and friendships emerge in the shared despair and ultimate loss of hope; in the end, their lives were forever changed.

For more, go here. I loved this book!

Framed said...

I can't wait to read this. It's been on my list for ages.

Paula said...

Birds In Fall is on my list of "want to reads" but I had actually not even heard of Bel Canto. Loved your reviews, both books sound wonderful.

Booklogged said...

Jenclair, both books are written beautifully and capture the feeling of being in the world but unaffected by it.

Lit Feline, I'm anxious to hear your thoughts about both books . . . when you get to them. I know how that goes.

Les, how did I miss reading your review? I'm glad you commented so I could go back and read your feelings about the book. Your's is a lovely review; so well expressed.

Framed, you are welcome to borrow my copy. I guess you know that already.

Paula, both are interesting books in their own right. If you like Birds in Fall you may want to add Bel Canto to your TBR list.

Megan said...

I loved Bel Canto, but I'd never heard of this one. I'll definitely have to put it on my list! Thanks for the review.

maggie moran said...

I loved Bel Canto and lead a book discussion which ran flat b/c all the participants loved it, too! A mutual love of a book is hard to keep going for an hour. ;)

I've heard about this book, but resisted picking it up b/c I thought it was nonfiction. Why? Heck if I know, but I'm ready to read it now!

BTW, Run is by my side, but I'm a little too chicken to pick it up. I'm afraid it wont live up to BC!

Stephanie said...

I haven't read either of these books, but you are certainly making a case for me to add them to my TBR!!

Great Review!

Anonymous said...

Wishing you the very best this Thanksgiving! :)

J. Kaye

Bobby D. said...

Nice that you have given me two books to read-- Bel Canto and Birds in Fall...I enjoyed your reviews. Thanks!

Bobby D. said...

How lucky am I ? Found BOTH Bel Canto and Birds in Fall this morning at a local library. Usually I have to order it thru the library systen and wait a few days... or buy the books. I'm starting with the Kessler.

Thanks again!

John Mutford said...

I love the title as well.

Lesley said...

I haven't read Bel Canto, but I did enjoy Birds in Fall, so now I'm more inclined to read it. Thanks!