DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF CONTENTMENT — A Review of “Bird in Hand”

In a moment, everything changes. One misstep, one wrong choice—then the unthinkable happens.

Alison Granville is leaving a book party for her best friend Claire. In the story of their southern small-town beginnings, Claire has described and defined their relationships, while claiming it is all fiction. Much later, Alison will see all of this more clearly.

Now she is just devastated in the aftermath of a car accident on the way home. She’d only had two drinks at the party, but she took a wrong exit, she was slightly disoriented…and then the other car came barreling through the intersection, through a red light, and everything in all their lives has changed.

In the months that follow, Alison and her husband Charlie seemingly distance themselves from each other. Alison thinks he blames her for the accident and the fallout—but Charlie knows that he is more than a little bit responsible, because he has fallen in love with his wife’s best friend.

Over time, as events unfold and as everything changes, each of the four that were part of a tightly knit friendship circle, come to reflect on how they all began and how everything is transforming itself before their eyes.

The tale is told in alternately past-and-present fashion, with each character’s past and present slowly coming together.

Afterwards, Ben, Claire’s husband, reflects on it all. He thinks: “I could grow to like this life. Maybe all of us could live several lives, giving some things up and gaining others, assembling different versions of contentment. Here in Boston, it isn’t hard to imagine that Claire was simply a part of his life that is over, a stage he went through, a phase, a bloodless leaving—like graduating from college, or quitting one job and starting another, or losing touch with an old friend.”

And Allison, also contemplating the permutations of her life, thinks: “Each moment of loss, she has come to believe, contains within it the possibility of a new life. When the unimaginable happens, and your life changes irrevocably, you may find along with the pain a kind of grace. And in the place of certainty and fear–the fear of losing what you had—you are left with something startling: a depth of empathy, a quivering sensitivity to the world around you, and the unexpected blessing of gratitude for what remains.”

Between the past and the future lie the secrets that unfold to tell this tale—lest the ending seem like a spoiler, it is the pathway to the destination that makes this novel truly unique.

Bird in Hand is a memorable tale that resonates, inasmuch as it brings out the hidden thoughts and feelings that characterize most lives on a day-to-day basis. Definitely a five star read!

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