Winter Birds [NOOK Book]

Overview

Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. On a snowy Thanksgiving day in North Carolina, a dreamy eight-year-old is pushed headlong into the adult world by a violent quarrel between his parents. Jim Grimsley's brilliant first novel unfolds in a strikingly unconventional way--as the boy tells himself his own story. A shattering story of heartbreak, violence, and the endurance of the spirit. "Tell everyone."--Dorothy Allison, author ...
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Winter Birds

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Overview

Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. On a snowy Thanksgiving day in North Carolina, a dreamy eight-year-old is pushed headlong into the adult world by a violent quarrel between his parents. Jim Grimsley's brilliant first novel unfolds in a strikingly unconventional way--as the boy tells himself his own story. A shattering story of heartbreak, violence, and the endurance of the spirit. "Tell everyone."--Dorothy Allison, author of BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA.

A prize-winning playwright's brilliant first novel unfolds in a strikingly unconventional way--as a young hemophiliac describes his baptism by violence in the rural south. "Tell everyone. I have rarely read anything as powerful. It is altogether marvelous, so beautifully written I wanted to steal it and pretend it was mine."--Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This intermittently affecting but disappointing first novel from Grimsley, winner of Newsday's Oppenheimer Award as Best New American Playwright of 1988, limns family dynamics in a household crushed under domestic violence. Danny Crell, an eight-year-old hemophiliac, his four siblings and their mother are long-term prisoners of their father and husband Bobjay's alcoholic rages. The narrative centers on this highly dysfunctional clan's Thanksgiving celebration, which goes terribly awry-the food winds up on the kitchen floor, Danny and his mother hide beneath their house-and ends in the grisly death of a dog. Grimsley describes the hopelessness of the family's life in lyrical and moving language. Bobjay is the main problem here: depicted as a cartoonish character with only the barest motivation for his anger (he lost part of his arm in a combine accident a few years back), he is Grimsley's excuse to focus relentlessly on the inner sensations of victimization. But he isn't fleshed out enough as a character to make his abusiveness seem credible or worth our attention. Since the other characters are also insufficiently developed, the narrative never coheres into a compelling story. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This grimly violent first novel would seem unbelievable were it not largely autobiographical. It recounts the tumultuous history of the Crells, a poor and transient Southern family, as seen through the eyes of Danny Crell, a dreamy eight-year-old hemophiliac and the author's alter ego. The action is dominated by a brutally violent Thanksgiving Day quarrel between Bobjay, Danny's alcoholic father, and Ellen, his long-suffering mother. The shocking immediacy of the material compels readers to continue even when its harshness might otherwise turn them away. This artfully told trip through hell is at once a survivor's tale and a tribute to a mother's endurance as she struggles to keep her family together against impossible odds. Recommended for all public libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
George Needham
The surface simplicity of this first novel--the story of a young boy who survives a violent Thanksgiving quarrel between his parents--masks an amazing voyage of self-discovery. Danny Crell comes from what must be the apotheosis of the dysfunctional family: his father, who has lost an arm in an industrial accident, is a mean and frequent drunk, and his mother appears to be a doormat for her husband's abuse. Danny and his baby brother are hemophiliacs, and metaphors of blood and bleeding permeate the book. Grimsley tells the story in the second person, with the narrator, who seems to be the grown-up Danny, offering sentences like this: "You brush bits of powdered grass from your fingers." At first, this device seems stilted and artificial, but as the novel gains momentum, one is swept into the story, and it almost feels as if the narrator is addressing the reader directly--and, occasionally, accusingly. Grimsley has created a harrowing southern gothic world, reminiscent of Faulkner or Caldwell. A remarkable first novel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616201593
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 2/13/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 362,439
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jim Grimsley is the author of four previous novels, among them Winter Birds, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; Dream Boy, winner of the GLBTF Book Award for literature; My Drowning, a Lila-Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award winner; and Comfort and Joy. He lives in Atlanta and teaches at Emory University.
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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. In Winter Birds, Grimsley has created an omnipotent sense of the hunt. Analyze how Grimsley creates this extraordinary sense of pursuit.

2. Discuss the unconventional way in which Winter Birds unfolds -- I)anny telling his own story to himself. What does it bring to the narrative that a more conventional way of storytelling could not?

3. What does the title "Winter Birds" mean? Did you relate it to the opening scene in the book when the boys are shooting birds? What is the metaphor?

4. How does the hemophilia of Danny and Grove impact the story and ultimately raise the stakes?

5. The children have nicknamed the cottage they live in "The Circle House." What metaphor(s) does Grimsley draw from this system of rooms wherein doors open into one room, then into another, then into yet another? How is it especially significant when Bobjay ultimately manages to penetrate the house, despite all Ellen and the children have done to keep him out?

6. It is obvious that Bobjay is a cruel tyrant, terrorizing his family. Discuss the ways in which he is also a victim.

7. Danny watches his mother grow more and more distant as she hides from Bobjay under the house. Grimsley writes: "Maybe it has come to your Mama now: the knowledge that your Papa and her Daddy are the same man, that maybe the feeling your Papa first gave her was no more than that; maybe something in her made her pick Bobjay Crell because he was like the Daddy she had known all her life, and maybe the feeling was never love." How did this possibility affect you? Did you believe this to be true for Ellen? Discuss this psychological phenomenon.

8. When Bobjay kills Queenie and all her unborn pups, whoand what is he really killing, and why?

9. Why do you think Ellen lets Bobjay back into the house and hence, back into their lives that Thanksgiving night, after he has stalked her, hunted her down, and terrorized her children?

10. In the end of the novel, when Grimsley writes: "You are a little boy following your Mama across the field. The grave will be like a channel marker, and when you are there you will know that facts are your only friends." What does he mean? What lesson has Danny learned from his family's circumstances?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2012

    Good book people read it i dare you

    You should read this people

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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