Bird in Hand (Paperback)
Harper Paperbacks, 9780060798901, 274pp.
Publication Date: June 29, 2010
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train, and the critically acclaimed author of The Way Life Should Be, comes a novel about the choices we make, how they shape our lives, and how they can change them forever--includes a special PS section featuring insights, interviews, and more.
Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: Everything is about to change.
It was dark. It was raining. It was just an accident. On the drive home from a rare evening out, Alison collides with another car running a stop sign, and--just like that--her life turns upside down.
When she calls her husband from the police station, his accusatory tone reveals cracks in their relationship she'd never noticed were there. Now she notices everything. And she begins to realize that the life she carefully constructed for herself is as tenuous as a house of cards. Exquisitely written, powerful, and thrilling, Bird in Hand is a novel about love and friendship and betrayal, and about the secrets we tell ourselves and each other.
Praise For Bird in Hand…
“Kline’s razor-sharp novel about love, marriage and obligation is a beach book only because you could zip through it anywhere.”
“Kline’s unflinching gaze and lovely prose set [BIRD IN HAND] apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It’s well-done, thoughtful and thought-provoking.”
“A gripping tale about two crumbling marriages, [BIRD IN HAND] offers a realistic and, at times, heartbreaking look at love and friendship.”
-RealSimple.com, Entertainment Pick
“[Bird in Hand] exhibits an unsparing eye for the telling details that reveal how people think and act.”
“Kline explores the complications of the lines and bonds between marriage and friendship with honest and complex emotions on all four narrative fronts.”
“In BIRD IN HAND, Christina Baker Kline looks at marriage, at parents and children, pain and sorrow, and at all the questions that life asks us. This is a wise and lovely book.”
-Roxana Robinson, author of Cost
“Christina Baker Kline is a relentless storyteller. Once she sets her hook and starts reeling you in, struggle becomes counterproductive. The narrative line is too taut, the angler at the other end too skillful.”
-Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and That Old Cape Magic
“It is both thrilling and terrifying to read this powerful new novel and think: this could be me. Christina Baker Kline takes us on an intimate journey with her characters, one that brings us dangerously close to the hidden truths about love, trust and friendship.”
-Ellen Sussman, author of Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex; Bad Girls: 25 Writers Misbehave; and On a Night Like This
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Bird in Hand is told from the perspectives of the four main characters. How do they see themselves individually and how do they see each other? How would you describe them?
- What is your opinion of Alison? What about Claire? Charlie? Ben? Which character, if any, did you relate to best? Did you recognize yourself-or elements of your own life-in any of the characters and their dilemmas?
- What was the significance of the car accident at the beginning of the novel? Would the events that followed have unfolded anyway? Are you aware of the traffic rules pertaining to four-way stops? Talk about the symbolism of the crash happening at a four-way stop and its implications for the novel′s themes.
- Compare Alison and Claire. What did they each offer one another? Compare the two marriages, as well as the affair. How does Claire and Charlie′s relationship contrast with their marriages?
- Though she had a copy of Claire′s novel, Alison "couldn′t bear" to read it. How would you feel if a close friend wrote a fictional account of his or her life? Would you have the same reaction as Alison? Why or why not? What was Alison′s reaction when she finally read Blue Martinis? Would it have been different if she′d read it before the accident and its aftermath?
- Much of the pain in the novel is caused by avoidance, the lack of wanting to know the truth. Why are so many people afraid to face the truth? Wouldn′t we all be better off if we looked at situations and people realistically? Might it not save time and help us prevent misunderstanding and pain? How did avoidance affect the lives of the characters in Bird in Hand? How might their lives have been different if they′d been honest from the start? What finally happened when Alison, Charlie, Claire, and Ben faced up to the truth?
- Discuss Alison′s relationship with her children. Did she perhaps devote too much of her time and energy to her children? By doing so, how did it impact her life? How does a parent maintain a balance between addressing their own needs and those of their children? Might being overly attentive to children have a negative impact on a marriage? Explain.
- Ben and Alison′s mother both saw that Alison was deeply unhappy long before Alison realized it herself. Why can others often see us better than we can see ourselves? How does one begin to look at oneself realistically? What did the four characters discover when they finally began to examine their lives?
- "You would think that two people who had built a life together over eight years, who′d seen each other at all hours of the day and night, who were raising two children together, might know each other better than anyone else in the world. But Charlie had the peculiar sense with Alison that he might never know her. She′d always been a kind of mystery to him." How can people who live in such close, intimate proximity be so distant? Why were Alison and Charlie so removed from each other? Is this true of all relationships? How well do you know your partner? Your best friend? Your child? Your sibling? How well do you think others might know you?
- In addition to self-deception, loneliness is a major theme of the novel. Many people equate loneliness with being alone, yet that is often not the case. Use examples from the novel to refute the notion of loneliness/aloneness.
- Another theme of the book is longing. Why do we often want what we don′t have? How can we learn to be content? What do you think the future holds for the four characters and especially for Charlie and Claire?
- Charlie chose Alison because he couldn′t have Claire yet wanted to be a part of Claire and Ben′s life. He was enamored of the idea of them and their lives. How much do you think most of our actions are motivated by our fantasies and desires?
- When she was dying, Charlie′s mother offered him advice. "Here′s what I learned. It′s not enough to hope that happiness will find you. You have to seek it. And another thing: no matter how complicated your life seems, you have the power to change it. Don′t make the mistake I did and waste precious decades because you′re too afraid to act." Do you agree with this? Talk about this in relation to the novel and the four characters. Can we really choose happiness? If we can, why do so many people remain unhappy? Have you ever faced a difficult situation and resolved to face it and change it?
- At Claire′s book tour reading, she chooses a passage about love. "She came to believe that there was such a thing as true love, and that it was the most important thing in the world-more important than kindness or constancy, more important even than trust." Do you believe in true love? How would you define it? Did Claire and Charlie share true love? How might they define it?
- Claire and Charlie broke up two marriages, and changed the lives of two small children in the name of love and happiness. How far would you go for happiness? Did they do the right thing? If you disagree, what would their lives-and the children′s lives be like? Might they not suffer in a different way?
- Claire acknowledged that they were being reckless and selfish, "but they were also being true to themselves, and in that way, she thought, they were being brave. If she didn′t make a choice that was right for her, she would regret it for the rest of her life. And wouldn′t that be worse?" Discuss Claire′s question. Were she and Charlie being brave by being "true" or is this an excuse to justify their betrayals?
- Speaking of happiness, Charlie studied the philosophy of Augustine while at Cambridge. Augustine argued that most people will never experience true happiness because it exists "only when you have what you love, and when what you love is good for you." Do you concur with Augustine′s outlook? Given his definition, would you say Claire and Charlie have found true happiness with each other? Why or why not?
- What do the words "I love you" mean to you? Is it rote or do they hold special meaning? How often do you tell people you love them? How often do you hear it from others? How do you feel when you say or hear these words?
- The author not only tells the story from the perspectives of each of the four characters, but she also interweaves past and present. How did knowing their backgrounds affect your perceptions of the characters and events? Instead of offering the details linearly, she braids the past into chapters from the present. How does this structure add depth to the story′s telling?
- Late in the novel, Alison′s son, Noah, almost has an accident on the slide at the playground. How does this scene reflect the events of Alison′s own life? How does the incident affect her?
- Pondering the demise of her own marriage, Alison thinks about others′ relationships. "Maybe they were all unhappy, and maybe all of the marriages would end in divorce. If not, why not? How would you answer this?
- What lessons did you take away from Bird in Hand? Was this a good title for the novel?