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PAINT THE BIRD by Georgeann Packard Kirkus Star

PAINT THE BIRD

By Georgeann Packard

Pub Date: July 28th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-57962-317-3
Publisher: Permanent Press

Packard (Fall Asleep Forgetting, 2010) searches the shadowy landscape of love and family.

Betrayed by her husband and best friend, the Rev. Sarah Obadias finds herself "this less-than-married minister." After a church conference brought on by a crisis in faith, Sarah's at loose ends in lower Manhattan. She retreats to a restaurant/bar, there meeting Abraham Darby, renowned painter, a virile, self-obsessed colossus. Sarah and Darby are marked with the "refinement of age." She’s 69; he’s slightly older, but their attraction is intense, immediate. Cocktails, food and then bed follow. The next morning, she finds herself with Darby in Brooklyn at the funeral of Yago Darby Díaz, Darby’s son, dead of AIDS. Sarah’s shocked when Darby stands to eulogize his son and rages that "[h]e stopped sharing his life with me when he joined this...culture?" Lives quickly become intertwined, Sarah with Darby, the two then with Johnny, Yago’s spouse, and their son, Angelo, and Allyssa, Angelo’s biological mother. Johnny is settled, owner of a small restaurant, and Yago, blithe spirit in life and death, had partied regularly around the bar circuit. The narrative moves to Darby’s summer house at Orient, Long Island, where Alejandra, Yago’s sensual and flamboyant artist mother, joins the moveable wake, and then back to the city, where Darby tumbles into a deep depression. Faith broken by doubt, Sarah’s left to confront her fractured life alone. Packard’s book layers symbolism on its pages, but it’s also an entrancing exercise in employing language to explore and define the nature of love and the meaning of life framed against death. The lyrical narrative edges toward the surreal when Yago speaks from the hospital gurney where he lies dead, then addresses Darby in the car on the way to his beach house, and finally approaches Sarah on the beach. However, beginning to end, the novel is a deeply poetic meditation "About life, about trust. About God. About death."

Brilliantly imagined and rendered.