Hummingbirds – Joshua Gaylord

Title: Hummingbirds
Author: Joshua Gaylord
ISBN: 9780061769016
Pages: 352
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Hummingbirds is the story of a group of students at Carmine-Casey, an elite prep school for girls, and some of their teachers.  Binhammer is the only male teacher on the English teaching staff, and he feels threatened when he learns that they are hiring another male, the amusingly named Ted Hughes.  However, Ted slowly grows on Binhammer and they begin to form a camaraderie that has the potential to turn into a very unique friendship.  Before that can happen, though, Binhammer realizes he has briefly met Ted before under the worst of circumstances.  This is a story of relationships, both appropriate and inappropriate: between students and teachers, colleagues, husbands and wives, and men and women.

Review:

Hummingbirds is an exceptional debut novel about the realities of people.  Each character in this novel is carefully drawn and very well-written.  Binhammer is insecure; though he is aware his students love him, he is unsure of himself.  When Ted is hired, Binhammer feels threatened because he is afraid that what made him special was being the only man on the English department’s teaching staff.  He isn’t quite sure how he is going to define himself in the future and becomes increasingly concerned as to how the students are taking to Ted.  Gaylord gets the reader inside the psyche of a man who isn’t sure what he wants or what he is.  Every time fate hands Binhammer something, he seems to want something else.

Indeed, this entire novel is about wanting what you don’t have.  Every character in this book, from Ted Hughes to Binhammer’s wife, Sarah, to Dixie, the seemingly airhead of a student, wants to be something they are not.  Binhammer is consumed by the fact that he can’t get through to one student, Liz, and Ted Hughes can.  Ted isn’t confident in his teaching skills and wants to be more like Binhammer when it comes to relating to his students.  Dixie wants Binhammer to take her seriously, and is frustrated that he doesn’t seem to realize they have a special relationship.  Each character in Hummingbirds wants something that they don’t have.

Since the novel is so character driven, it would not work if the characters weren’t relatable and very well-crafted.  Luckily, Gaylord has exceptional skill at drawing three dimensional personalities.  What is really surprising is that some of these characters aren’t necessarily likeable.  They all have flaws and many make bad decisions through the course of the novel.  It takes a great and talented author to write characters that aren’t easy to like, yet keep a character driven novel extremely interesting.

Hummingbirds also brings up the issue about relationships between students and teachers, especially female students and male teachers.  With girls in high school in such a hurry to grow up and become adults, there is a concern that these relationships could quickly become inappropriate.  Gaylord writes this issue into his novel incredibly well.

It’s hard to believe that Hummingbirds is Joshua Gaylord’s first novel.  He writes with such confidence and grace, he seems like a seasoned fiction writer.  This is a book that should appeal to a lot of different people, and it’s one I definitely recommend picking up.

Comments

  1. I’m so glad you liked this! I just got a copy of it last week and I can’t wait to read it.

  2. I’m so glad you liked this! I just got a copy of it last week and I can’t wait to read it.

  3. I’m so glad you liked this! I just got a copy of it last week and I can’t wait to read it.

  4. I’m so glad you liked this! I just got a copy of it last week and I can’t wait to read it.

  5. wow! sounds like such an interesting read. great review! i’ll definitely be checking this book out. thanks!

  6. wow! sounds like such an interesting read. great review! i’ll definitely be checking this book out. thanks!

  7. My interest is piqued – thanks for the review!

  8. My interest is piqued – thanks for the review!

  9. Book sounds appealing . Thanks for the review

  10. Book sounds appealing . Thanks for the review

  11. I liked this one but didn’t love it! I had a hard time getting used to the author’s writing style.

  12. I liked this one but didn’t love it! I had a hard time getting used to the author’s writing style.

  13. I just got this yesterday and you’ve made me excited about reading it.

  14. I just got this yesterday and you’ve made me excited about reading it.

  15. For me, the mark of a great writer is his/her ability to create characters I can invest in as a reader. And yes, I completely agree with you that an amazing writer can also make the unlikeable characters that same way. Sounds like this author has just that talent!

  16. For me, the mark of a great writer is his/her ability to create characters I can invest in as a reader. And yes, I completely agree with you that an amazing writer can also make the unlikeable characters that same way. Sounds like this author has just that talent!

  17. This sounds like one I would enjoy. I like character-driven stories so this would be right up my alley. Also I have to love writer who names their English teacher character Ted Hughes!

  18. This sounds like one I would enjoy. I like character-driven stories so this would be right up my alley. Also I have to love writer who names their English teacher character Ted Hughes!

  19. Wow! When you bestow high praise, I generally listen.

  20. Wow! When you bestow high praise, I generally listen.

  21. Hmmm–I’ve seen this around and have neglected getting a copy. I wasn’t sure that the subject matter would be to my liking. But I’m glad that you can recommend it. I’ll have to keep thinking about it.

  22. Hmmm–I’ve seen this around and have neglected getting a copy. I wasn’t sure that the subject matter would be to my liking. But I’m glad that you can recommend it. I’ll have to keep thinking about it.

  23. Sounds like a really good book!

  24. Sounds like a really good book!

  25. One of my colleges was only girls and we had an only male teacher for a while, I know what you’re talking about 🙂

    This book would be a great read, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  26. One of my colleges was only girls and we had an only male teacher for a while, I know what you’re talking about 🙂

    This book would be a great read, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  27. I bought it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. The book can really keep the reader interested because of all of the layers and subplots that so well compliment eachother. There is always something interesting happening whether to the main character, Binhammer, or one of the supporting characters. I think it would be a very interesting read for young college students who want to become teachers also.

  28. I bought it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. The book can really keep the reader interested because of all of the layers and subplots that so well compliment eachother. There is always something interesting happening whether to the main character, Binhammer, or one of the supporting characters. I think it would be a very interesting read for young college students who want to become teachers also.

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