by Christine Baker Kline
Published June 2010 by Harper Paperbacks
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours
Claire and Ben, Alison and Charlies. Two best friends who have known each other since first grade. Two couple who have been all but inseparable since Claire and Ben first met Charlie in college then introduced him to Alison. Claire and Ben, living in the city--Ben a successful architect, Claire has just published a work of fiction that more closely resembles a memoir. Charlie and Alison, living in the suburbs--struggling to make ends meet on Charlie's salary so that Alison can stay at home to raise their two small children. When Claire begins to pull away, Alison believes it is because of her thinly disguised portrayal of Alison in the book. Deep down, though, she fears it is more.
Then one terrible night an accident occurs, the ramifications of which will expose all of the problems within both marriages and cause all four of them to examine the choices they have made in their lives to see where their futures lie.
"For Alison, these things will always be connected: the moment that cleaved her life into two sections and the dawning realization that even before the accident her life was not what it seemed. In the instant it took the accident to happen, and in the slow-motion moments afterward, she still believed that there was order in the universe - that she'd be able to put things right. But with one random error, built on dozens of tiny mistakes of judgment, she stepped into a different story that seemed, for a long time, to have nothing to do with her. She watched as if behind one-way glass, as the only life she recognized slipped from her grasp."
That first paragraph of the book pulled me in. The second paragraph had me hooked. In truth, the book turned out to be far less about what happened in that second paragraph than what happened in the first. Kline writes beautifully as she exposes the underbelly of marriage--the routines we fall into, the choices we make, the way we treat each other, the way we communicate--or don't.
"Marriage was hard enough-preposterous enough-in the best of circumstances. Two people, from different backgrounds, whose eating habits and tastes and educations and ambitions might be vastly dissimilar, choose to live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, eat the same foods. They have to agree on everything from where to live to how many children to have. It was sheer lunacy, when you thought about it."
Kline gives us each person's perspective of the current situation as well as filling us in on the events that lead to these moments. She makes us care about each of them, knowing their backgrounds, knowing why they made the choices they made, even if we don't agree with those choices. Every few chapters, she delves further back--into the time when the couples were first meeting each other and becoming couples. The typeset in these chapters is different which avoids that jarring feeling that can happen when books travel back and forth in time. The book did drag about for me in the final pages as things wound down but these parts were necessary to give some kind of closure.
In a "All Things In Common" moment for me, I picked this book up just after my book club had discussed how it's a bad idea to choose a mate when you're in college, that waiting a few more years to look for the person you will spend your life with is a better idea. I can't say that I disagree, despite having met my husband when I was in college and having now been married to him for almost 28 years. But in "Bird In Hand," the characters all seemed to settle for what they thought they needed, not what they knew they wanted. I couldn't help but wonder what decisions they might have made had they met a few years later in life.
To learn more about Kline, you can follow her on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
To read more opinions about this book, please visit the other tour hosts. The full schedule can be found at: http://tlcbooktours.com/2010/