Annie Proulx is well-known for books such as “The Shipping News” and “Accordion Crimes” and for her most famous short-story, “Brokeback Mountain”. There is no doubt about the fact that she writes like a dream. There this is quality to her writing which holds on to you and doesn’t let go. I hadn’t read any of her non-fiction books till about two weeks ago, when I started reading, “Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place”.
When I first picked up or came to know of the book, I thought it was fiction. It did not cross my mind that it would be non-fiction and maybe that is why even though I had it with me for a long time, I read it only recently, because I am apprehensive of reading non-fiction. More so, when it is about the American countryside (in this case Wyoming), which I know nothing about. However, as it happens with books I don’t expect to like al that much, this one also took me by surprise and I actually enjoyed it.
“Bird Cloud” grows on you – almost page by page, layer by layer and pulls you right into itself and charms you at the end of it. The book centers on Proulx’s house called, “Bird Cloud” (hence the title) which she decided to build when she bought 600 acres of Wyoming landscape and at the same time let me also not mislead you. It isn’t as much about the house as it is about Proulx’s ancestry and Wyoming history attached to it. She speaks of her forefathers, her discovery to her roots, her plans of building the house, poetic quotations, her thoughts on the wind and the weather, and the animals and birds that make up the landscape.
This is the essence of the book and at the same time it is not a memoir. It isn’t personal. It is about life I guess. The book is divided into three sections: In the first she speaks of her family and how she wants to find a balance in herself of wanting the perfect home and the need to wander, the second section is about how she thought she would build her perfect home and the third is about her life in that place.
The book is uneven and yet the writing is strong and grabs you from the first page. It has this rough quality to it, which I guess is needed when writing about family and home and at the same time it doesn’t get emotional. It is distant and views things as they are. “Bird Cloud” for me was an exploration into family and the places we come to call home. It extended to being beyond just another read. It made me think of homes I have lived in and the surroundings and memories attached to each place. Maybe that is why it connected the way it did. A great read, slow nonetheless, perfect for people who want to connect to the idea of home and life.