BIRD IN HAND by Christina Baker Kline

Thank you, Christina Baker Kline, for getting me out of my reading slump! I just finished Bird in Hand, and I am BACK!

Kline Bird in Hand, which I blogged about here, is about two couples – Ben and Claire, and Alison and Charlie. Alison and Claire were childhood best friends. After Claire and Ben (who were already engaged) met Charlie while they were living in London, Claire set up Charlie and Alison, who wind up getting married too. This book is, at its core, about when happens when Claire and Charlie finally confront the fact that they are with the wrong partners, and that they are in love with each other.

The book opens with a book party and a car accident. The accident and its aftermath are the accelerator for the ultimate destruction of these two marriages, which was already underway. Kline tells this story unflinchingly, taking on the difficult truths that these four people face with sharp detail and brisk pacing. I had a lot of trouble putting it down. There are no villains here, just four people who found themselves approaching the midpoint of their lives and trying to figure out who they are, what makes them happy, and what sacrifices they are willing to make.

I liked this quote, about Charlie dealing with his wife's accident:

[H]e knew that, really, her culpability wasn't the issue – it was that he'd been on the brink of self-discovery, a quest that had nothing to do with her. It was separate from her, from the children, from their life. But this accident made it impossible for him to pursue it. He felt now, at the edge of a feeling more powerful, more dangerous than he could ever remember having experienced – a bottomless despair.

Kline's a detailed writer – mostly in the description of her characters' interior thoughts and emotions – and I felt like I really knew and understood these four people by the end of the book. I cared about them and could understand what made them act as they did. Kline also did a nice job of sharing just enough of the past to make the present make sense, through well-chosen flashbacks and memories.

How did I not know about Christina Baker Kline before? I will be reading more of her books! Great read, and highly recommended.

FTC disclosure: Thanks to Morrow for sending me a review copy of this book.