Monday, December 23, 2013

Paint the Bird by Georgeann Packard #review #books

Title: Paint the Bird
Author: Georgeann Packard
Publisher: The Permanent Press, 2013

Seventy-year-old Reverend Sarah Obadias has run away from her life, and acts outside of what one would expect of someone of her profession: she goes home with a complete stranger – the relatively well-known painter Abraham Darby. Only things aren’t looking too hot for Darby either. His gay son, Yago, has just died due to complications related to antiretroviral treatment, and he’s struggling to come to terms with his son’s homosexuality and his death.

But Yago’s husband, Johnny, enters the mix as well, and they have a son, Angelo, and Darby is awkward around them as he is with most people. You are also eventually introduced to Yago’s mother, the painter Alejandra Morales Diaz (but she’s no longer married to Darby).

Put all these people in the mix, with Yago as the focus, and there are bound to be some interesting results.

The story itself is centred around the grieving process. Even Sarah finds herself touched by Yago’s spirit (perhaps almost literally) and the complex relationship between family is examined, as well as how one deals with death and betrayal. To a degree, both Sarah and Darby must face their past and find fresh current for the future in their latter years, by examining what they have harvested so far in their lives.

We are reminded that people perceive the selves of others in different ways – that we are multifaceted: parents, children, lovers, spouses – and that these states coexist in one person.

Perhaps the best illustration of this theme comes at a point where both Darby and Alejandra paint Sarah, whose role in the story as a whole appears to be that of a muse for the main characters during their time of grief – at least that is one way to look at her.

Paint the Bird I’d term as a surreal novel that flirts with magical realism, and might be a difficult story for some to connect with. The pace is slow and the prose textured – focused on seemingly random conversations between characters that somehow hang together within the context.

This is a slow-moving story. It doesn’t quite get off the ground or – much as in real life – have convenient conclusions to tie up the loose ends. At the end of the day, I took a step back, feeling a bit like a voyeur, with much to think about concerning perception, acceptance and rebirth.

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