School Library Journal
The narrator of this novel, seemingly set in the early 1970s, is five-year-old Pigeon. She observes her family's changes during the summer after her parents' separation and during which her 16-year-old sister becomes pregnant. Pigeon is bright and remarkably self-sufficient, and as she describes her mother's child-rearing methods, her self-reliance is credible enough to make the story compelling. Her mother takes her; her sister, Dove; and their 10-year-old brother, Robin, to the Jersey Shore, where they move in with the children's uncle. The mother goes to work in a movie house, Dove takes a job at a diner, Robin discovers a deep commitment to fortune-telling, and Pigeon is often left to her own devices from morning until evening. She longs for her father, can't interpret her uncle's relationships with other men, yearns for company during the day, and offers her sister support while longing for some in return. Robin seems to be more alert to Pigeon's needs than anyone else except for their uncle, who is caring but ineffectual as a substitute parent. Pigeon and Robin struggle to understand the changes in their mother when she takes up with a new man and develops a near obsession with a tent revivalist. Markson sews a neat tapestry of family flaws as observed by the not-yet-judgmental Pigeon, making this a sound and interesting choice.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
A coming-of-age tale from the author of When We Get Home (1989). Pigeon is the youngest of three children. The rest of her family consists of older sister Dove, older brother Robin, their distant and eccentric mother and a loving but often-absent father. When Pigeon is five, it becomes apparent that her father, a pharmacist, has been engaged in some less-than-legal sales activities. This revelation adds another layer of anxiety to an already tense home life, and while the father's ultimate disappearance doesn't exactly fix things, it does spur his wife into action. In the middle of the night, she instructs her children to pack their things, and she takes them from their apartment in Manhattan to her brother's seaside cottage in New Jersey. There, they all begin a new life. Significant events occur. Discoveries are made. Innocence is lost. Wisdom is gained. This novel distinguishes itself from a multitude of similar works largely by its shortcomings. The dialogue is ludicrously unconvincing, composed mostly of cliches and outlandish pronouncements. Pigeon might be comforted when her uncle folds her in an embrace and assures her that "Nothing can't be fixed or cured," but readers are likely to be distracted by this statement's demonstrable falseness. And the author seems to invite her audience to quibble about the ubiquity of the family Columbidae-or simply to guffaw-when she writes, "No, Dove may have been beautiful and she may have been a particularly rebellious teenager, but despite her name, she was never a rare bird." Markson begins with a foreword written in the adult voice of her young narrator, explaining that the book is an attempt to work through that eventful summer long ago.Indeed, the novel reads very much like thinly disguised memoir, and it's difficult to imagine any non-therapeutic reason for its existence. Mostly irritating and entirely unnecessary.