Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Gravity of Birds

Natalie and Alice Kessler were as close as any two sisters could be in childhood.  In adulthood the two continue to live with each other, yet are no longer connected as they once were.  What unfolds in Tracy Guzeman's The Gravity of Birds is a story full of secrets and deception.

Thomas Bayber, a reknowned artist is living next to Alice and Natalie one summer during their teen years.  Bayber uses both girls as subjects in his painting; Alice is taken with Bayber, while Natalie appears indifferent.  

Now, decades later, Bayber, a recluse, asks for help in locating some missing pieces of art that depict the Kessler sisters. Unfortunately, no one knows where Natalie and Alice are, having disappeared shortly after the summer they all spent together.

As the story unfolds in different time periods and with different narrators, secrets are revealed.  Natalie's control over her sister never seemed extreme to Alice, especially as she has been restricted because of her rheumatoid arthritis that surfaced in her early adulthood.  

The men Bayber has hired to find his lost paintings soon realize it isn't the artwork Bayber is after, but the location of the Kessler sisters, and information about the secret that Natalie managed to keep hidden from Alice for thirty-five years.

This started a bit slow for me, mostly because I wanted more narration from Natalie or Alice.  The stories of Dennis, an art history professor, and Stephen, a young art authenticator, were less intriguing, yet necessary for understanding the rest of the novel and how the stories intersected. As the stories came together I could hardly put this book down, wanting to know what evil Natalie exacted before her death.

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