Title: Little Bird of Heaven: A Novel
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Zoe Kruller, a beautiful singer, has been found murdered in the small town of Sparta, NY. The two main suspects are her estranged husband, Delray Kruller, and Eddy Kiehl, a man with a wife and family. The novel follows Krista Kiehl, Eddie’s daughter and Aaron Kruller, the son of Zoe and Delray, over a span of years as it examines the consequences of this brutal murder.
While I have heard wonderful things about Joyce Carol Oates, I have never actually read one of her novels. Little Bird of Heaven seemed like the perfect place to start.
Little Bird of Heaven has two narrators: Krista and Aaron. Krista’s story is the first half of the book, followed by Aaron’s in the second. We see the same events from both sides and gain an understanding about how these two hurting and troubled people affect one another. The two voices are written very differently. Krista is more matter of fact (but also told with more emotion), while Aaron holds the reader at an arms length. His thoughts are written in an almost stream of consciousness as he tries to accept his mother’s death. Though very well-written, I must admit that I appreciated Krista’s voice much more than Aaron’s.
Though a murder is at the center of Little Bird of Heaven, this really isn’t a mystery. True, there is the lingering question of who killed Zoe Kruller, but the center of the story is really on the ramifications of her death. Both Aaron’s and Krista’s lives are irrevocably changed by it, and the novel is about that change and how it affects them.
There is a lot of pain in this novel, and Oates writes it beautifully. Her amazing prose is what ties this whole novel together. I can’t say enough wonderful things about how well she writes, about how she captures emotions so truly with just words. She elevates reading a book from an act to an experience.
I thought Little Bird of Heaven was an interesting book and a great introduction to Oates’ work. I’ll definitely be picking up more of her novels in the future.