The Gravity of Birds: Book summary and reviews of The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds

A Novel

By Tracy Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family's summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.


Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Gravity of Birds. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Do you have a favorite artist? If so, why do you admire their work?
Oh that is a very difficult question to answer...I seem to like BEST the artist whose work I am standing in front of. Naturally, there are many pieces of art that I pass right by but when I stand & look I see so much glory ~ no matter the medium. I... - marganna

Do you think the environment in which we see art influences our experience of it?
Definitely! An example: On a recent trip to Spain we toured many cathedrals & basilicas where we saw "floats" or pasos on display. Impressive, beautiful, magnificent HOWEVER it wasn't until we accidentally bumped into a procession with the pasos ... - marganna

How do the various locations reflect the people who occupy them? How do settings, particularly homes, preserve memories and emotions?
I really don't think I could have said it better than nank or dorothyl. - JulieAB

How do you interpret the poem that prefaces the novel? How would Alice relate to these verses?
I think the poem is very appropriate and applicable to the novel. I see it relating to Alice. Some of the lines "on a cot by an open window" shows her disconnection and isolation from the real world. I also like "wanting life" which I think has a ... - dorothyl

Other than its obvious role in restricting Alice's physical abilities, how does rheumatoid arthritis affect Alice's life as well as the lives of the people around her?
I agree with most of what Kathrynk & Marciac have stated. We never know what a person is going through so it's difficult to judge. Yes, Alice became a recluse; she did have a painful debilitating disease; she thought her child was dead; she had been ... - marganna

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The captivating prose of Tracy Guzeman's first novel instantly pulls you into the lives of the Kessler sisters, Alice and Natalie, and their intertwined love story with Thomas Bayber, an attractive young artist. Forty years later, as Bayber lies dying, he sends two trusted, but disparate, colleagues to find a missing painting that the Kessler sisters possess. Clandestine love affairs, painterly clues and a world of untruths come seamlessly together in this exceptional debut." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Talented...incredibly assured...her cast of endearing eccentrics and her stellar prose will win a loyal audience." - Booklist

"In this richly textured novel, two young sisters encounter art and their sensuality under the watchful gaze of a seductive painter. Forty-four years later, when a never-before-seen portrait of them is unveiled, a complex web of jealousy and heartache is exposed." - O, The Oprah Magazine

"A lovely, mesmerizing novel. The Gravity of Birds combines the drama of warring sisters, the mystery of a missing painting, and the sorrow of lost love into a haunting elegy that will, like the artwork it describes, leave you breathless. The paintings and characters that Tracy Guzeman creates will seep into your imagination and take up permanent residence, changing the way you think about art." - Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and The Gilly Salt Sisters

"Lovely! The Gravity of Birds is a warm-hearted, assured, and haunting debut. In prose that is always graceful and often breathtaking, Tracy Guzeman delivers a compelling story of the love of art, and the art of love." - Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

"The Gravity of Birds is one of those rare, exquisitely written novels that haunt you long after you've finished the last page. Guzeman writes of both the fragility of the human spirit and its inner strength. The book unfurls like a hidden canvas, soaked with color, emotional longing, and a desire to make sense of what is often too painful to be said without the assistance of art. It is a novel not to be missed." - Alyson Richman, author of The Lost Wife

"Tracy Guzeman's The Gravity of Birds is part mystery, part psychological drama and intriguing love story. This is a stunning debut. It's a brilliant tale, written in evocative language, and every page is pure seduction. I want to scream from the rooftops: read this book!" - Ellen Sussman author of French Lessons

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Lisa Richardson
The Gravity of Birds
I didn't think when I started that this was going to work for me, but just a few pages in, I was captured by the beautiful prose of the author, and the hidden stories within. I wanted to know about the characters, and solve the mysteries, and help the characters. Iwas surprised by some resolutions, but liked that. Definitely a book that I didn't want to be over when I finished. I look forward to more by this author.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Dorothy L
This book sometimes got lost
I found this novel had a slow start that made me impatient. I wasn't very engaged with the characters. Midway through the book, the pace quickened and I got more interested in the story. Then the reverse happened. Events came together very quickly at the end of the book and for me, there were too many coincidences and events happening simultaneously. I found it unrealistic. The author writes well but I think lost her way at times and I lost interest.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Sharalynne Pasztor
Thanks for a good read!
I also received this book as a book club read and I loved it! Half way through this book I thought I had it all figured out but the unexpected turn at the very end really surprised me. I think the character development was wonderful..I feel like I know them all! This was a great book for a debut author and I look forward to reading more books by her in the future. Gotta suggest this book to my book club!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Asha
Compelling.
I received this book as a book club read and couldn't put it down when I started reading it. The characters gripped me from the beginning and I had to know the outcome. I loved the sense of longing portrayed in the novel and also the feeling of alienation felt by the male protagonist-Thomas Bayber, Most of the people in the novel have major flaws and it's a refreshing feat (of the author) to not white wash them. Alice, Natalie, and the rest of the cast live their lives holding steadfast to whatever keeps them surviving...
I am glad I read this ...Thank you Book Browse for putting this book on my radar. I highly recommend this book as a quick and fulfilling read.

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Author Information

Tracy Guzeman Author Biography

Photo: Chris Hardy

Tracy Guzeman lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories. The Gravity of Birds is her first novel.

Author Interview
Link to Tracy Guzeman's Website

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