My name is Avocet Abigail Jackson. But because Mama couldn't find anyone who thought Avocet was a fine name for a child, she called me Bird. Which is okay by me. She named both her children after birds, her logic being that if we were named for something with wings then maybe we'd be able to fly above the shit in our lives. . . .
So says Bird Jackson, the mesmerizing narrator of Connie May Fowler's vivid and brilliantly written, Before Women Had Wings.
Starstruck by a dime-store picture of Jesus, Bird fancies herself "His girlfriend" and embarks upon a spiritual quest for salvation, even as the chaos of her home life plunges her into a stony silence. In stark and honest language, she tells the tragic life of her father, a sweet-talking wanna-be country music star, tracks her older sister's perilous journey into womanhood, and witnesses her mother make a courageous and ultimately devastating decision.
Yet most profound is Bird's own storyher struggle to sift through the ashes of her parents' lives, her meeting with Miss Zora, a healer whose prayers over the bones of winged creatures are meant to guide their souls to heaven, and her will to make sense of a world where fear is more plentiful than hope, retribution more valued than love. . . .
"A thing of heart-rending beauty, a moving exploration of love and loss, violence and grief, forgiveness and redemption."
"There is no denying the depth of Connie May Fowler's talent and the breadth of her imagination."
The New York Times Book Review
The Boston Sunday Globe
Oprah's optioned this trailer-park tale of child abuse and redemption, which PW praised in a starred review for its "harrowing details" and "plangent, lyrical prose." (May)