Bird in Hand is about two married couples: Claire and Ben and Alison and Charlie. Claire and Alison have been friends since childhood, and when Claire and Ben realized Charlie needed to be set up, they thought of Alison, and the rest was history. Now Claire and Ben live a busy life in New York City, while Charlie and Alison live the quintessential suburban life: Charlie works in the city, Alison stays home with their two young children, white picket fence and all of that. But one night, when Alison visits the city for a professional event of Claire’s, tragedy strikes. And it is this night that begins the rapid and tragic downward spiral of both marriages.
I’ve been interested in reading this book since I first heard of it around this time last year, so when I saw that TLC was touring it, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Bird in Hand was everything I thought it would be – smart, interesting, tragic, and I loved every minute I spent with these characters.
Hands down, the most compelling thing about this book is the beautifully rendered characters. Christina Baker Kline managed to make me care deeply about all four of them, even though I didn’t always like their decisions or agreed with the way they were acting. In fact, two of the characters betray terribly the other two, and even through all of that, I felt connected to each of them, I felt like I could understand where they were coming from, even though they were doing something I completely disagree with. That should go to show you exactly how well-written Claire, Ben, Alison, and Charlie are in this novel – they felt like real people, making real choices, for real reasons that only they could understand. I loved that.
The novel is mostly focused on the present day, but every couple of chapters there is one sprinkled in as a flashback. The reader is always provided the year for the flashback, so it really gives a strong idea of how these characters grew to be so close to each other, how these two relationships became a foursome. This was such a perfect way of giving the reader the background for these characters, because instead of telling us how they came to be friends, we are shown how these relationships formed. By the end of the book, you have a complete picture of their lives in relation to one another, and it makes a lot more sense how things end up where they do between the four of them.
I can’t say that I loved the ending. I don’t know that it could have ended better, honestly, it’s just that it was rather depressing. I suppose the whole book could be looked at as depressing, but to me it was a study in characters and relationships and human nature, and sometimes those things are depressing. But I did finish the book with an overall feeling of sadness, even though I really, really liked the novel.
If you like reading realistic fiction that focuses on characters and relationships, you MUST pick up Bird in Hand. It is a fabulously written novel and exactly the kind of book I can gobble up like candy. Although a bit sad, it is realistic and makes for excellent reading. I will definitely be reading more from Christina Baker Kline.