Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Bird House by Kelly Simmons


"Beneath the surface of any problem, if you scrabble a bit, you'll find a secret.
It may take a while -decades perhaps- not for your excavation, mind you, but for your desire to appear; for that childlike curiosity to float up again. Indeed, you may need an actual child to summon it, as I did.
But this is what drives us--the historians, the trash pickers, the gossips, the shrinks. And yes, the readers of books. We're all rooting around, teasing out other people's hidden reasons." [p.1]

Growing up in South Dakota, I was no stranger to waiting out a storm in the dank shelter of our basement. Dark, damp, cold .... it was a curious relief to the blistering heat of summer. I remember my mother going through old boxes of memories while we hid from the twisting summer sky. I remember seeing pictures of her in her senior sweater or smiling with a long lost dog. She told us stories of old boyfriends (one named Earl and one who spelled her name "Rocksy"), her best friend, Audrey Lindbloom (my spelling) and a girl named Twyla Caper affectionately (?) nicknamed Toilet Paper. And I remember thinking .... No way! There's no way she remembers all that!
Ha ha! And now 35+ years later I still remember the names of her old friends and stories told in the cellar some stormy night when I was just a kid. I think what has amazed me most about growing older is exactly how much we don't change! How much we actually do remember and how much we still feel .... very deeply.
The Bird House by Kelly Simmons stirred up these emotions for me in the most delightful way. I loved the contrast of stories told by the same woman forty years apart. How much she did not change and how much she still felt. It made me feel better about my own inevitable aging. Our main character, Ann, told a great story, for sure, while she struggled with her own fading memories, mysteries, feelings of guilt and love .... her blossoming relationship with her precocious granddaughter.
The book is full of mystery and humor .... pain and pleasure .... love and anguish. I couldn't put it down. Due to my own life getting in the way, I haven't been able to lose myself in a good book for a long time and I dearly missed it. This was the perfect read for the steamy hot nights of early summer. I was tempted to take a blanket, pillow, three dogs and this book down to the basement just for the sake of nostalgia, but I resisted!

1 comment:

Blocked Lucy said...

RB - I love your personal anecdotes to this review. I remember my parents telling me similar stories of their high school friends when I was younger, although it mostly consisted of me pointing to random photos in a yearbook and demanding answers. But nonetheless, there were stories about almost all of the significant ones, and while I might not remember all of the names, I remember how they affected my parents.

For example: there were a number of guys in my mom's senior yearbook that had afros. My brother and I found this HILARIOUS for reasons that made sense only to an 8 year old, and wanted to know what each one of these guys "were like." My mom thought, and pointed to one, and said, "well, I dated that one. But he only dated me to get closer to my friend Kevin." (Her best girl friend, Kevin, also gave my little sister her namesake) I may not remember afro-boyfriend's name, but I could ALWAYS pick him out of that yearbook.

I'm glad to see you're back writing reviews!