This novel tries to straddle the line between literary and commercial fiction. What the publishing gods have deemed upmarket fiction. Unfortunately for THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS, it probably tries a little too hard, and therefore doesn’t do either as effectively as if it just picked one and flew above the treetops. Instead, it crash landed into a cactus, and I was left picking needles out of my butt.
The structure proved a little confusing, with the movement between time periods, and I was prone to forget who I was, or where I was for brief periods of time (sometimes a wee bit longer). This was certainly a literary element, as I end up more confused and discombobulated when I read “more serious” works than when I read the high-octane commercial fiction. What can I say? My brain likes to be entertained, and I feed it generous helpings of the good stuff.
Not that this novel lacked an entertainment factor. It just might not have been what Tracy Guzeman intended, as I wanted to throttle Thomas Bayber within an inch of his life for being a self-indulgent ass. Note to readers who are not artists, we are not all like this. Some of us (surprise surprise) actually have a soul. The other source of entertainment was a “Who’s on First?” sketch between Finch and Jameson that made me want to slap my head and then get on a plane in the middle of a blizzard.
As for the other characters, I was less than impressed, except for a cameo appearance near the end of the novel. The cameo setting—New Mexico land of the sand and vast openness—proved a rather beautiful side trip during which I could have indulged myself further, had I just been given the opportunity to do so.
While some might call this a mystery, or hear it marketed as such, and then proceed to be disappointed when it’s not, I’d say this is more of a coming of age or contemporary fiction tale that had more of a literary spin than it knew what to do with. In other words, this book had an identity crisis, and I’m not sure I can really help this novel solve its problems. But someone smarter than me can probably make a better effort at identifying its feathers.