Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline

Bird in Hand

From the book flap: Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: everything is about to change

It was an accident. It was dark, it was raining, Alison had only had two drinks. And the other car ran the stop sign. But Alison finds herself trapped under the crushing weight of grief and guilt, feeling increasingly estranged from her husband…

Charlie, who has his own burdens. He’s in a job he doesn’t love so that Alison can stay at home with the kids (and why isn’t she more grateful for that?); he has a house in the suburbs and a long commute to and from the city. And the only thing he can focus on these days is his secret, sudden affair with…

Claire, Alison’s best friend. Bold where Alison is reserved, vibrant where Alison is cautious, Claire has just had her first novel published, a thinly veiled retelling of her childhood in North Carolina. But even in the whirlwind of publication, Claire can’t stop wondering if she should leave her husband…

Ben, an ambitious architect who is brilliant, kind, and meticulous. And who wants nothing more than a baby, or two—exactly the kind of life that Charlie and Alison seem to have…

* * * * * * *

When I read the synopsis I thought it sounded like a daytime drama. I’m happy to say my first impression was wrong. It’s the story of two couples – Alison and Charlie, Claire and Ben – and what happens when a tragic accident sets in motion unavoidable changes in their lives.

When something terrible happens, a lifetime of small events and unremarkable decisions, of unresolved anger and unexplored fears, begins to play itself out in ways you least expect. You’ve been going along from one day to the next, not realizing that all those disparate words and gestures were adding up to something, a conclusion you didn’t anticipate. And later, when you begin to retrace your steps, you see that you will need to reach back further than you could have imagined, beyond words and thoughts and even dreams, perhaps, to make sense of what happened. (p. 245)

Christina Baker Kline’s clean, crisp writing drew me into the novel and I kept reading until my eyes refused to stay open. The story is told from all four characters’ perspectives, present day and flashback, of how they met, fell in love and got to the point where things started to fall apart. Interesting to me was that there didn’t seem to be an inordinate amount of blame issued to one character, when it would’ve been very easy to do.

Why did these people decide on marriage? Why marry one person when you’re attracted to another? Should vows be honored or should we grasp for whatever happiness might come our way – after all, we only have one life. Will happiness and love be found with another person? Obvious answers? Maybe. This is one of those times I wish I belonged to a book club. The discussion would be lively, I’m sure. Bird in Hand is the second novel I’ve read by Christina Baker Kline and I look forward to reading another soon.

Bird in Hand Intl

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

The Way Life Should Be: A Novel

From the back cover: Angela Russo finds herself in Maine thanks to a sailing instructor, an impulse, and an idea that in Maine, people live “the way life should be.” But reality on Mount Desert Island is not what she expected. Far from everything familiar, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up. Relying on the flair for Italian cooking she inherited from her grandmother, she begins to discover the pleasures and secrets of her new small community – and to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.

* * * * * * *

This book is one of those unexpected finds – a book I happened upon while looking for something else. The title grabbed me right away. For years my family vacationed in Maine. Each summer we’d fly to Boston, rent a car, and drive north to Maine for an all-too-short time.

I was a bit envious of Angela with a chance to set her life in a different direction. I admired how brave she was after her reason for going to Maine turned out to be a disappointment. And I liked that she started to look inward for answers to what she really wanted in life. Angela had help from several supporting characters. The most enjoyable for me was Flynn, the owner of a coffee shop. He gave Angela a job, his friendship, and encouragement. Christina Baker Kline made me laugh as I read the banter between Flynn and Angela.

I enjoyed Kline’s writing. When Angela was at the beach letting her dog run she thought about her surroundings:

“Though the air is frigid, the sun makes a valiant effort to warm these rocks, this place, my face. The coast is not cold in the way that people think, or even in the way I imagined before I came. The coldness is threaded with warmth, tempered by moments of grace.”

That describes the way I felt about Angela’s story. Her life did seem cold at times but she shared moments with family members and new friends that were, well, graceful. At least, that’s how I saw it. The Way Life Should Be turned out to be one of those books that was just too short. It was a fast read and it left me wanting to know “what happened next”. I look forward to reading more books by Christina Baker Kline.