Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Blackbird Season

The Blackbird Season  

The Blackbird Season is a book I couldn't read fast enough. It had me from the get-go with this tale of love and secrets in a rural Pennsyvania town. It begins with an eerie premise- thousands of starlings falling from the sky, dead. All over town. And the story unfolds from there as Nate and his wife see their marriage fracture after Nate is accused of sleeping with one of his students. Nate claims he's innocent, and their mutual friend Bridget, another teacher, believes him. Well, mostly. The evidence is pretty convincing, but she knows Nate and she knows he didn't do it. 

The student in question, Lucia, is the heart of the story. A troubled girl, with white hair and a reputation as a witch, she's the accuser but throughout the story it's unclear what her relationship is with Nate. Was he just helping her through a tough time? He has a reputation for being close to his students, and he's the baseball coach and popular. Most of the parents like him, at least until he's accused. Then the town golden boy is suddenly persona non grata, and Bridget is one of the few that stands by him. Nate also has issues in his marriage with Alecia,who cares for their autistic son Gabe mostly alone. Alecia's whole life is wrapped around Gabe and his special needs, and Nate feels neglected. 

The story is told from four viewpoints- Nate and Alecia, as well as Bridget and occasionally Lucia. The Lucia chapters mostly to serve to provide a glimpse into the enigmatic Lucia's life and background, which is pretty depressing. She's being abused by her brother and her parents have run off, and her only lifeline is her friend Taylor, who seems to run hot and cold with her. And that's partly where Nate comes in- the guy who's disconnected from his wife's struggles seems to be there for everyone else in town, including his students- and Lucia. I thought they were all compelling, sometimes unlikable, sometimes totally relatable, and it felt true to life. The small town, the cliques, the snarky parents. And strangely enough, the book is funny. At least I thought so- the narrative voice for each character is pretty distinct, but the author has a way of poking fun at suburban life in a way that reminded me of Liane Moriarty. I found myself laughing at certain points, especially in Alecia's chapters. You can relate to her frustrations and her feelings toward Nate, as he sails through life while she tends to Gabe. 

 There's no real right or wrong here- it's just people, and everyone has a point. Nate and Bridget both feel like Gabe consumes every waking moment in Alecia's life, and he does- they would like her to lighten up, just a bit, and she of course doesn't understand that at all. Bridget has her own issues, she's now a widow and sort of tuned out of the daily school rhythms- she's just going through the motions, but her role as creative writing instructor gives her insight into the students, especially when things erupt. She's crucial to the story as she is the only one with access to Lucia's innermost thoughts, via her journal. She discovers some unsettling truths about the people around Lucia and tries to help.  

What's with the birds? It lends a possibly paranormal element to the story, which I liked, and while a possible explanation is given, it's left open- ended  I found the climactic reveal a little unrealistic, but each chapter provides more insight into these flawed people and I couldn't get enough. The characters are complex and well- drawn, and this book looks at so many things- how well do we really know someone? We can never know their innermost thoughts- does that matter? Nate is a nice guy who doesn't help his wife enough. Alecia is a great mother who can also be a bitch, as several people point out. Bridget comes out of her grief- induced fog to push for the truth, when no one else does. What is justice in a small town? Can you trust the cops? What are kids really doing at the high school, or at parties? Why does Lucia see birds, and is she a victim or a wild child or both? 

22 comments:

  1. Dammit, Greg. Now I want to read this one. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like a fascinating read, Greg! Happy Thursday. Hugs...RO

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great review - I'm pretty sure I have this one on my TBR. These all sound like such complicated characters, and I'm interested to see how it all turns out!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ooh intriguing read. I like that it has various point of views, and I enjoy the idea that not everything is black and white with people.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
  5. I liked The Vanishing Year and this one sounds just as good. Great review. Hope you are enjoying the couple days of sunshine!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sounds like there are interesting relationship dynamics going on here.

    For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
  7. I want to know if Nate is guilty. I know a marriage can suffer if there's a special needs child. It sounds like Nate should give more help and Alecia should make some time for her husband instead of only giving attention to their son. I hope there's a happy ending for their family. Wonderful review, Greg! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oooh this sounds super interesting! I hadn't heard of this one before but you've piqued my interest for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great review! I have read a few different opinions on this book - I think if I get a chance in my lineup I will read it! Thanks for the insight!

    ReplyDelete
  10. From your review, this does sound eerie, and the characters do sound compelling! It's always those characters who are kind of unlikeable but still realistic who are the most compelling. The birds thing does sound a little strange, but I'm glad you liked the book!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This book didn't really work for me, but I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it! I think the dead birds ultimately becoming a non-issue was my biggest complaint, and of course, I couldn't stand the characters! But I definitely know what you mean when you said you couldn't get through this fast enough, it's a quick read and quite addictive, and I think if this was a movie I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    ReplyDelete
  12. I felt much the same way Mogsy did. It was definitely a quick read, but ugh those characters. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Rural Pennsylvania!? SOLD. Just kidding, there are birds on the cover. Ha no, I actually like the cover despite the birds. Anyway. I really like the idea of this one. Because yeah, how exactly would you really know who's telling the truth? The default should be to believe the kid, but then she's got all kinds of stuff going on and wow. I just bought the damn shark book and now I am going to have to buy this one too so I know what happens! Great review :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Okay, this has me totally intrigued. It seems like this one has a great balance of both character and plot. Not sure how I feel about the somewhat open-ending (I do like my endings neatly tied up with a bow) but I might be intrigued enough to give it a try anyway.
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this a little more than I did. I liked the overall story but wished there was more tie-in with the dead birds. That angle of the story just seemed to fizzle out along the way for me. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm glad you liked this one. I've seen some not-so-favorable reviews and since I have a copy, you've given me hope.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love this kinda of grey area stories where the characters a re so well developed that there is not good or bad just people! and the plot sounds amazing too! great find Greg and great review. BTW I hope you are recovering ok

    ReplyDelete
  18. We've got very friendly blackbirds in our garden...I love those guys!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm so curious as to how the dead birds tie it! I like that there is no right and wrong as that makes it more real to life. Sounds very interesting Greg.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Very nice review! You have my interest piqued!

    ReplyDelete