Book Review: Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates

Title: Little Bird of Heaven
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: 4th Estate, Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0007342549
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I discovered Joyce Carol Oates a long time ago. I think about ten years or so. Since then I have always looked forward to what she writes and she churns out at least two books or so every year. Maybe even more. The fact of the matter is that she writes like a dream. Her prose is something else. It is of the macabre, the darkness, the sexually obsessed, of strained relationships and all about life as is – in your face and not a happy place to be in.

So when I got the opportunity to read and review one of her books, I could not help but give it a go. “Little Bird of Heaven” could be a love story. It could also be a murder mystery and a deep psychological drama. Joyce Carol Oates very cleverly makes the book about all of those.

“Little Bird of Heaven” takes place in a small town called Sparta in New York, where a young mother is found dead. The primary suspects are her estranged husband and a married man with whom she was having an affair. But that is not the story. The story is about the lady’s son Aaron and her lover’s daughter Krista who are virtually strangers to each other, and now linked to each other by this crime, as they struggle to be on opposite sides, while being infatuated with one another.

The story seems threadbare but it isn’t so. There are layers to it and rightly so, as this is just what Oates likes to deliver. Her narrative of this book is unique and surpasses somehow anything she has ever written. The first half of the book is told from Krista’s perspective, a young girl, who wants to believe in her father and somehow is torn between what is real and what she thinks of as reality.

The second part is told from Aaron’s perspective. It is less vocal, more introspective. It is about hidden emotions and not displaying any of them, even when your mother is no longer a part of the world. Despite this, Oates does not get sentimental at any point in the book. She writes with raw intensity and emotions that are in check. That is what is needed for a book like this I guess.

“Little Bird of Heaven” is about a lot of things – the past, the present and how the future shapes our lives. It is about emotional longing and cruelty. Of how children endure the pain and how they deal with it. This book is not a light read. It is about life on the edge and how the characters hang on to it. Joyce Carol Oates writes with some riveting insight. There is no happy ending; however I will definitely recommend this book to all.

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