Bernadette (“Bird”) Connolly, 25, only has 13 days left until the end of her probation for having written some bad checks at the grocery store when she was desperate to provide for herself and her new toddler Angus. She already paid off the restitution fees, and is looking forward to moving with Angus to a nice new place, instead of living with her mother, with whom she argues constantly. Bird’s mother is deeply religious, and doesn’t approve of her daughter. The mom also repeatedly harps on Bird to go to the Catholic Church, but Bird doesn’t believe in God. Explaining about the difference between herself and her mother, she thinks:
“She took things on faith, simply because, long ago, she had decided to believe. That wasn’t enough for me. If I was going to believe in something, if I was going to stand in awe of a fact, I wanted to know that I was doing so for a logical, defined reason. That it deserved to be believed in; because it was not only worthy of, but merited, my awe.”
There was another reason she eschewed faith. Ever since Bird’s beloved father died in an auto accident and the priest told her it was okay because Jesus was there with him (as he died), Bird turned away from religion.
Before Angus was born, when Bird worked at a burger restaurant, she became friends with a kitchen worker, James Rittenhouse. She was dating the manager, Charlie, but that was mostly sex. Her relationship with James was something different. Unlike Charlie, James was shy and kind, and seemed to “get” Bird in a way no one else did. He saw her for what she was and it didn’t change how he felt toward her, and that meant everything to Bird.
The story goes back and forth in time, and it takes a while to find out what happened with Bird, Charlie, and James, and how it is that now, five years later, Bird is a single mom and James is on the run from police. But unfortunately what happened in the past suddenly becomes central to Bird’s life again, and could jeopardize the future for which she had worked so hard.
The ending is realistic, if not what readers may want. And Bird finally comes to understand that she could show the same compassion to, and forgiveness for, herself that she extends to others.
Evaluation: This story moved a little slowly for my tastes, but it’s good, and quite poignant and thought-provoking. It would make an excellent choice for book clubs.
Published by William Morrow, and imprint of HarperCollins, 2017