Title: The Gravity of Birds
Author: Tracy Guzeman
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thomas Bayber, a world-renowned painter, hasn’t put a brush to the canvas in years. Dennis Finch, the leading Bayber historian and a sort of benefactor for Bayber, knows how much a new canvas from the artist would fetch. That’s why, when Bayber teases the existence of a “lost” painting, Finch pays attention to Bayber’s terms. Finch and Stephen Jameson, an art authenticator working for an auction house, must find the subjects of Bayber’s painting, two young sisters named Alice and Natalie Kessler, now grown old, and discover what happened among the three all those years ago.
A complex, lyrical novel focusing on its well-written characters, The Gravity of Birds combines a well-paced character driven story with a literary mystery.
The Gravity of Birds is a fascinating novel with so many different aspects rolled up into one whole. Let’s start with the art angle. Guzeman provides all kinds of fascinating tidbits about the art world and how things work in this novel. There’s Finch, the historian, and Jameson, the authenticator; through these two, the reader receives glimpses into this romanticized world, realizing that it’s not as glamorous as it’s often portrayed to be.
Despite the fact that one painting by Bayber could fetch millions, the artist himself lives in a sort of squalor. Why did he stop painting? What happened all those years ago between Thomas, Natalie, and Alice? This is the center of The Gravity of Birds, this mystery about Thomas and the Kessler sisters. Guzeman does a great job keeping the tension high for this storyline, driving the character exploration forward along with the narrative.
The characters are at the center of The Gravity of Birds and they are its highlight as well. Guzeman writes each personality deftly, making sure to differentiate them from one another. Even the secondary characters are fully fleshed people who leap off the page; it’s the emotional connection to these characters and the questions surrounding them that keep readers invested in the storyline. Alice, particularly, is a well-written characters that readers will both appreciate and sympathize with. She’s had a difficult life and been forced to sacrifice too much.
If you’re looking for a thoughtful novel with fully realized characters and an elegant mystery, The Gravity of Birds is a great choice. Guzeman’s lyrical prose and glimpses into the art world will only enhance the reading experience; it’s a unique and accomplished debut novel that is absolutely worth your consideration.