The Birds of Gravity by Tracy Guzeman (5 out of 5)
This book was exactly the type of book I’ve been hoping to read for the past month or so. A gripping tale of sisters, betrayal, art, and history that can’t be buried, no matter how you try to do so. Originally, I avoided this book because it centered around a painting, but like the classic Girl With The Pearl Earring, sometimes the best stories are those centering around a work of art. The book itself, for the record, could also be considered a work of art. The hardcover that has been hiding in a box finally found its way into my orbit mid-week and didn’t let go until it was finally finished.
The Kessler Sisters (Natalie and Alice, close until their teens, but radically different in just about every way) are subject, along with the artist Thomas Bayber, of a newly unveiled, provocative painting that Bayber suddenly wants to sell. He hires and asks Dennis, an art history professor, and Stephen, an art authenticator, to sell it for him. However, there are conditions attached to this request. He wants Dennis and Stephen to find the sisters, who have been missing for quite some time. This is rather unusual given the back story of Bayber’s history with the sisters. Some many years ago, one cruel summer, Alice and Natalie vacation at their family’s summer home. Alice meets Bayber, who’s a struggling artist, and falls head over heels for him. Natalie seems to not care a bit about this love affair, although by the end of the idyllic summer, all has blown to pieces and things will never again be the same. The girls vanish and Bayber moves on to acclaim as an artist. The painting in which the three are featured, that suddenly Bayber wants to sell, is the key to the puzzle of what happened. Dennis wonders over and over again as he and Stephen try to find the girls, and sell the painting, what really happened and why Bayber won’t let old ghosts lie undisturbed. The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. Make it a monsoon of reveals, and you have the reason this book is so gripping and fantastic. Don’t pick it up if you can’t set aside some time for it, because it deserves all the time you can devote to it.
As already stated, the characters are phenomenal. The history and present day is covered, every last detail, unlike other literature read recently. The love story is believable and touching, and when the answers come to the surface of the murky lake, well, there is no knot left untied, and not only does it blow the mind, it makes a rather convincing case overall. Especially great was the depth of the mystery that was surrounding the sisters’ disappearance. There are no easy ways out, no silliness in the way that the characters psychological mind traps affected one another and the story itself, and the common stable ground known as remorse. I think it would be tough for anyone to walk away from this narrative unaffected. I loved this book.