Bird in Hand

( 75 )

Overview

Alison and Charlie, Claire and Ben seem like two picture-perfect couples. Alison and Charlie have a beautiful family and a home in the suburbs, while Claire and Ben's marriage revolves around their careers and city-based lives. Despite their differences, the two couples have remained close friends for ten years.

But one terrifying moment in the dead of a New Jersey night will quickly—and unexpectedly—expose the fractures and stresses that lie beneath the surface. Alison and ...

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Bird in Hand: A Novel

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Overview

Alison and Charlie, Claire and Ben seem like two picture-perfect couples. Alison and Charlie have a beautiful family and a home in the suburbs, while Claire and Ben's marriage revolves around their careers and city-based lives. Despite their differences, the two couples have remained close friends for ten years.

But one terrifying moment in the dead of a New Jersey night will quickly—and unexpectedly—expose the fractures and stresses that lie beneath the surface. Alison and Claire, best friends since childhood, are now worlds apart. And as each of them tries to find a way forward, all four will be forced to examine the choices they have made and the lives they have built, and ultimately to ask themselves: What is happiness? Does true human nature lie in our wanting or in how deeply we allow our desires to consume us?

Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: Everything is about to change.

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Editorial Reviews

MoreMagazine
"Kline’s razor-sharp novel about love, marriage and obligation is a beach book only because you could zip through it anywhere."
Entertainment Pick - RealSimple.com
"A gripping tale about two crumbling marriages, [BIRD IN HAND] offers a realistic and, at times, heartbreaking look at love and friendship."
Booklist
“Kline explores the complications of the lines and bonds between marriage and friendship with honest and complex emotions on all four narrative fronts.”
Richard Russo
“Christina Baker Kline is a relentless storyteller. Once she sets her hook and starts reeling you in, struggle becomes counterproductive. The narrative line is too taut, the angler at the other end too skillful.”
More magazine
“Kline’s razor-sharp novel about love, marriage and obligation is a beach book only because you could zip through it anywhere.”
Roxana Robinson
“In BIRD IN HAND, Christina Baker Kline looks at marriage, at parents and children, pain and sorrow, and at all the questions that life asks us. This is a wise and lovely book.”
Ellen Sussman
“It is both thrilling and terrifying to read this powerful new novel and think: this could be me. Christina Baker Kline takes us on an intimate journey with her characters, one that brings us dangerously close to the hidden truths about love, trust and friendship.”
Entertainment Pick RealSimple.com
“A gripping tale about two crumbling marriages, [BIRD IN HAND] offers a realistic and, at times, heartbreaking look at love and friendship.”
Publishers Weekly

In her fourth novel (after The Way Life Should Be), Kline traces the construction and collapse of two long-term relationships. On her way home to New Jersey after an awkward party for her lifelong friend Claire's highly autobiographical first novel, Alison gets into a car accident that kills a boy in the other car. Even though the accident wasn't her fault, Allison, a mother of two young children, is wracked with grief and guilt. Her husband, Charlie, also struggles with the impulse to blame his wife, especially as he longs for any excuse to escalate his nascent affair with Claire and end his marriage. Episodes detailing the inevitable collapse of Alison and Charlie's marriage, as well as Claire's marriage to her well-meaning husband, Ben, are interspersed with vignettes revealing the four friends' 10-plus-year history together. Shifting perspectives and thoughtful interior monologues reveal just how isolated, and in some cases misguided, the characters are. Kline's unflinching gaze and lovely prose sets Kline's novel apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It's well-done, thoughtful and thought provoking. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In one life-altering moment driving home from a book release party to her New York suburban neighborhood, Alison Gray can't avoid a collision when another driver runs a stop sign. The little boy riding in the front seat of the other car is killed. In the weeks following, Alison's guilt makes it hard for her to parent her own children. Alison's husband, Charlie, first reproaches her for drinking two martinis that night, then dutifully tries to be supportive, but the neighbor they barely know manages to help Alison more. As the story of Alison and Charlie's eight-year, on-autopilot marriage unfolds, so does the history Charlie shares with Alison's best friend, Clare, and her husband, Ben, going back to their days as American grad students in London. When Charlie and Clare begin an affair, everyone is forced to make decisions about the future. VERDICT Though it covers familiar territory (young adults approaching middle age), Kline's fourth novel (after The Way Life Should Be) exhibits an unsparing eye for the telling details that reveal how people think and act. Readers who enjoy thoughtful family dramas and stories about marriages and relationships (e.g., Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve) may want to try this. It's also good book club choice, with a reading group guide. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/09.]—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Brockton P.L., MA


—Laurie A. Cavanaugh
Ellen Sussman
“It is both thrilling and terrifying to read this powerful new novel and think: this could be me. Christina Baker Kline takes us on an intimate journey with her characters, one that brings us dangerously close to the hidden truths about love, trust and friendship.”
Roxana Robinson
“In BIRD IN HAND, Christina Baker Kline looks at marriage, at parents and children, pain and sorrow, and at all the questions that life asks us. This is a wise and lovely book.”
Richard Russo
“Christina Baker Kline is a relentless storyteller. Once she sets her hook and starts reeling you in, struggle becomes counterproductive. The narrative line is too taut, the angler at the other end too skillful.”
Entertainment Pick RealSimple.com
“A gripping tale about two crumbling marriages, [BIRD IN HAND] offers a realistic and, at times, heartbreaking look at love and friendship.”
Booklist
“Kline explores the complications of the lines and bonds between marriage and friendship with honest and complex emotions on all four narrative fronts.”
More magazine
“Kline’s razor-sharp novel about love, marriage and obligation is a beach book only because you could zip through it anywhere.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060798901
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 213,699
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Christina Baker Kline was born in England and raised in Maine. She is the author of five novels, including Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be. Writer in Residence at Fordham University from 2007 to 2011, Kline is also a recent recipient of a Ger- aldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship and several research fellowships to Ire- land and Minnesota. She lives outside of New York City and spends as much time as possible in northern Minnesota and on the coast of Maine.

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Read an Excerpt

Bird in Hand

Chapter One

It had been a rainy morning, and all through the afternoon the sky remained opaque, bleached and unreadable. Alison wasn't sure until the last minute whether she would even go to Claire's book party in the city. The kids were whiny and bored, and she was feeling guilty that her latest freelance assignment, "Sparking the Flame of Your Child's Creativity," which involved extra interviews and rewrites, had made her distracted and short-tempered with them. She'd asked the babysitter to stay late twice that week already, and had shut herself away in her tiny study...mudroom, really...trying to finish the piece. "Dolores, would you mind distracting him, please?" she'd called with a shrill edge of panic when three-year-old Noah pounded his small fists on the door.

"Maybe we shouldn't go," she said when Charlie called from work to find out when she was leaving. "The kids are needy. I'm tired."

"But you've been looking forward to this," he said.

"I don't know," she said. "Dolores seems out of sorts. I can hear her out there snapping at the kids."

"Look," he said. "I'll come home. I have a lot of work to do tonight anyway. I'll take over for Dolores, and then you won't have to worry."

"But I want you there," she said obstinately. "I don't want to go alone. I probably won't even know anybody."

"You know Claire," Charlie said. "Isn't that what matters? It'll be good to show your support."

"It's not like she's gone out of her way to get in touch with me."

"She did send you an invitation."

"Well, her publicist."

"So Claire put your name on the list. Come on,Alison...I'm not going to debate this with you. Clearly you want to go, or you wouldn't be agonizing over it."

He was right. She didn't answer. Sometime back in the fall, Claire's feelings had gotten hurt...something about an article she'd submitted to the magazine Alison worked for that wasn't right, that Alison's boss had brusquely criticized and then rejected, leaving her to do the work of explaining. It was Alison's first major assignment as a freelance editor, and she hadn't wanted to screw it up. So she'd let her boss's displeasure (which, after all, had eked out as annoyance at her, too: "I do wonder, Alison, if you defined the assignment well enough in the first place. . .") color her response. She'd hinted that Claire might be taking on too many things at once, and that the piece wasn't up to the magazine's usual standards. She was harsher than she should have been. And yet...the article was sloppy; it appeared to have been hastily written. There were typos and transition problems. Claire seemed to have misunderstood the assignment. Frankly, Alison was annoyed at her for turning in the piece as she did...she should have taken more time with it, been more particular. It pointed to something larger in their friendship, Alison thought, a kind of carelessness on Claire's part, a taking for granted. It had been that way since they were young. Claire was the impetuous, brilliant one, and Alison was the compass that kept her on course.

Now Claire had finished her novel, a slim, thinly disguised roman à clef called Blue Martinis, about a girl's coming-of-age in the South. Alison couldn't bear to read it; the little she'd gleaned from the blurb by a bestselling writer on the postcard invitation Claire's publicist had sent..."Every woman who has ever been a girl will relate to this searingly honest, heartbreakingly funny novel about a girl's sexual awakening in a repressive southern town"...made her stomach twist into a knot. Claire's story was, after all, Alison's story, too; she hadn't been asked or even consulted, but she had little doubt that her own past was now on view. And Claire hadn't let her see the manuscript in advance; she'd told Alison that she didn't want to feel inhibited by what people from Bluestone might think. Anyway, Claire insisted, it was a novel. Despite this disclaimer, from what Alison could gather, she was "Jill," the main character's introverted if strong-willed sidekick.

"Ben will be there, won't he?" Charlie said.

"Probably. Yes."

"So hang out with him. You'll be fine."

Alison nodded into the phone. Ben, Claire's husband, was effortlessly sociable...wry and intimate and inclusive. Alison had a mental picture of him from countless cocktail parties, standing in the middle of a group with a drink in one hand, stooping his tall frame slightly to accommodate.

"Tell them I'm sorry I can't be there," Charlie said. "And let Dolores know I'll be home around seven. And remember...this is part of your job, to schmooze and make contacts. You'll be glad you went."

"Yeah, okay," she said, thinking, oh right, my job, mentally adding up how much she'd earned over the past year: two $50 checks for whimsical personal essays on smart-mommy Web sites, $500 for a parenting magazine "ser-vice" piece called "50 Ways for New Moms to Relieve Stress," a $1,000 kill fee for a big feature on sibling rivalry that the competition scooped just before Alison's story went to press. The freelance editing assignment with Claire had never panned out.

"The party's on East End Avenue, right?" he said. "You should probably take the bridge. The tunnel might be backed up, with this rain. Drive slow; the roads'll be wet."

They talked about logistics for a few minutes...how much to pay Dolores, what Charlie might find to eat in the fridge. As they were talking, Alison slipped out of her study, shutting the door quietly behind her. She could hear the kids in the living room with Dolores, and she made her way upstairs quietly, avoiding the creaky steps so they wouldn't be alerted to her presence. In the master bedroom she riffled through the hangers on her side of the closet and pulled out one shirt and then another for inspection. She yanked off the jeans she'd been wearing for three days and tried on a pair of black wool pants she hadn't worn in months, then stood back and inspected herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the closet door. The pants zipped easily enough, but the top button was tight. She put a hand over her tummy, unzipped the pants, and callipered a little fat roll with her fingers. She sighed.

Bird in Hand. Copyright © by Christina Kline. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 75 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Wonderful heart-fealt story.

    This is a great book about people trying to find what truly makes them happy- not what they think they should do to be happy. Love love loved this book. There are so many emotions in tthis book you cant help but get involved in the story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 19, 2011

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!

    Could not put this book down once I started reading! The overall story plot was a little somber, but it awakened so many emotions. I am a big fan of Emily Griffin books and found this story to be very similar to some of hers (on a deeper scale).

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2010

    Page turner

    I was excited to read Bird in Hand because of the interesting topic of affairs. I figured it would be filled with lot's of drama and be a quick read. I finished this book in nearly 3 days because I got so into it. I couldn't put it down! It reminded me of a simpler, smaller Jodi Picoult book, which I absolutley love! However not a lot of events happened to keep this book in fast pace, but I kept on reading anyway. I wish there was more to it! I would defintely recommend to anyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2010

    Thought provoking.

    Stories are so often told as a cliche - particularly condeming those who have affairs. I felt Kline did a wonderful job of developing all of the characters and forcing the reader to see each perspective. In the end, each person carries responsibility for how things play out - it was a very honest and vulnerable story. The writing style was engaging and clever. Definitely one I'll be recommending.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent writing,but enter at your own risk. Although I couldn't put it down.

    This book is too real life for me. I loved Kline's last book. Her writing is wonderful, articulate and so adept at showing her character's personalities, flaws and all. It was entrancing, I couldn't put it down. I had to KNOW.
    This is not Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. These characters could be real people with real lives and feelings. Four friends. Two "in love" with the other's spouse.
    The honest truth: I didn't like any of them. They were too flawed. I didn't see much to like. Too needy, too selfish, too judgmental. I wanted to like them. and it is too real. There are people in the "real" world like that. People who think their happy ever after is out there at the cost to others, including their children.
    I did like the ending. If that helps those afraid to go ahead and read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2009

    A compelling read, great writing

    I was headed out of town and was swamped, but I stole the time to read Bird in Hand (constantly, not in dribs and drabs--one of those you have to keep reading until...and that, of course, was part of the reason for the advanced case of swamped). Still swamped so here's the quick version: I fully intended to just read a little once the book was in my hands, but that was impossible. I have always loved Christina Baker Kline's work, her people, their challenges, but this novel did not have one "anything" out of place, not a thing to remind me that I was reading a book, that I wasn't really there. Those are the perfect ones for me, and rare.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    BIRD IN HAND is an interesting look at four people heading into middle age

    Alison and Claire met in elementary school and became friends. Clare met Charlie and Ben in London as three American graduate students. When Claire fell in love with Ben, she introduced her pal Charlie to Alison so he would not feel alone. The couples marry and remain friends over the past decade.

    Following a book launching party for Claire, Alison drives home only to become involved in a fatal accident not her fault. A mother of two, Alison logically understands she did nothing wring, but her rationale thinking is superseded by her passionate guilt and sadness for the death of the boy in the other vehicle. Charlie is non-supportive of his wife implying she was at fault for drinking two martinis before driving although he puts on a pretense of caring. He has an agenda as he wants her to walk out of their marriage while he plots the end of his beloved Alison's relationship with Ben so he can come out in the open with their affair.

    Once readers (especially boomers) get past the similarity in names to the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, BIRD IN HAND is an interesting look at four people heading into middle age. Each of the quartet comes across genuine as snippets and vignettes bring out the back story of the past decade of two friendly couples; while the differing points of view enhance the audience understanding of the apparent destruction of two marriages. The key to this profound family drama is Christina Baker Kline does not moderate from her resolute unwavering glimpse at the end of marriages through the unblinking eyes of the four protagonists turning seemingly into antagonists.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Didnt get into the other book.

    So I started this book. So far this book seems to be a good read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Not a page turner until the end

    This book finally became an interesting read at the end. I didnt like the flashbacks. Nott much to sayabout it, other than its just average.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2011

    good

    book nice read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2011

    hhhbhbbbb

    Stuid and a big wast of anybodys time and money. Dont buy!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2011

    Its ok

    I thought it would have been better....I finished it...expecting more to the story. Alittle dissappointed. Glad it was a quick read. wouldnt recommend.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2010

    just ok

    This book had so much potential but after we read it my book club agreed it left us hanging. The writing was ok and the ending needed more. A quick weekend read but not worthy of book club discussion.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    this book hit me right

    I loved this book and just ordered another from this author. I thought it was beautifully written, excellent characters and plot, no easy/obvious ending. I look for books like this, too rarely written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    BIRD IN HAND?

    Not sure how the author decided on the title since, to me, it didn't relate to anything in the book. Thought the characters and plot were just ok. It got a lot of good reviews but they must have seen something in this book that I didn't.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2009

    Beautiful, heartbreaking

    In BIRD IN HAND, Christina Baker Kline writes beautifully and wisely about love, marriage, family, desire and betrayal. Each character is complex and fully drawn: Claire and Ben, Charlie and Alison are real people, struggling with tough questions of moral responsibility and the importance--and cost--of personal happiness. Kline has an amazing ability to dramatize tense psychological moments. I couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Realistic Look at Relationships

    Alison and Charlie, Ben and Claire...they've been friends for ages. Alison and Claire became friends in elementary school. Claire introduced Charlie to Alison after she fell for Ben and didn't want to Charlie being the odd-man out. Deep down, Claire and Charlie have always been in love with each other.

    Years later, Alison and Charlie are married with two young children. Ben and Claire are married, but after Claire's miscarriage, she turned her attention to her career. Ben wants children, but Claire really doesn't.

    Things really start to unravel when Alison attends Claire's book release party. The two have had a strained relationship ever since Alison had to reject Claire's magazine submission. Now, Claire has published a book based loosely on their lives.

    At the party, Charlie bows out of going and Alison has two drinks. On the way home, she's involved in a car accident and a little boy is killed. Alison was barely over the legal limit. The other car ran a stop sight. The boy was sitting on his mother's lap rather than safely strapped into his seat. Regardless, Alison blames herself for this boy's death. This tragic night will change all four lives forever.

    BIRD IN HAND takes a bold look at the lives of these two couples. I found myself intrigued by the writing. Typically, switching viewpoints wears thin, but this time it worked extremely well. You have Alison, who's given up a lot to raise their children. Charlie who's a little jealous of Ben's success and though he has a dedicated wife, she's just not enough. Ben is jealous of the life Charlie and Alison have with two loving children and a home in the suburbs. Claire wonders what life would have been like if she'd chosen Charlie over Ben.

    As the story builds to the climax, the reader is treated to growth from each character, particularly Alison who must find the strength to get back up and push past the guilt. I often found myself cheering her on.

    The author has tapped into human nature--we all wonder "what if" from time to time. I can't say this would be a book for my keeper shelf, but I definitely enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down once I'd gotten familiar with each character.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews

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