It was a lovely and unexpected surprise to receive Grace’s email, introducing me to her latest book The Bird That Sang In Color. I have been following her career with interest since I had the privilege to review her debut novel Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees, although I can’t believe that was 8 years ago, way back in 2012- Yikes!!
I was even more ‘chuffed’ to realise that Grace has also afforded me the ultimate honour of including me in the acknowledgements for The Bird That Sang In Color.
I value and appreciate your support, Grace 🙂
‘THE BIRD THAT SANG IN COLOR‘
Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life—and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life, which prompts her own journey to live authentically.
While this textured story combines serious issues such as alcoholism, death, and family conflict, it’s balanced with wit and humor and is filled with endearing, unforgettable characters.
The story spans decades, beginning in 1970 and ending in the present. Readers will be immersed in this tale as it poses an intriguing question:
“What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”
Grace lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewellery designer, food cart owner, retail clerk, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie!
She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favourite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favourite author is Flannery O’Connor.
Grace’s fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy. She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.
Her favourite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead:
“Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”
Check out all the latest information at Grace’s website
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This amazing cover image, is taken from a small selection of Vincent’s artwork. If, like myself, you like the style of his work, Grace has left this link, where you can view a portfolio of his drawings
What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life? By pictures, I mean drawings, not photographs. A photograph is easy. A drawing is earned.
“Sometimes what you want to do isn’t what you should do.”
“At first my future life looked beautifully out of focus like some kind of a painting I was seeing from a great distance, but the longer I stared into it, the more distinct and clear it became until I could almost smell the roses.”
“I kept seeing Vincent with those same sad, lost eyes and kept pushing this awful vision out of my mind, but it just kept returning, each time with what seemed to be a renewed sense of purpose. I was afraid that I’d never be able to stop seeing him like that, or worse yet, that he’d stay that way for the rest of his life.”
“Why don’t we see someone’s true greatness until they’re gone?”
“That sounded so good to me – us all going home to be together, all except for the person who made the house a home. Without her, our home was just a house, a nameless structure, an abandoned warehouse. She was what made it home. She was what made us a family. I knew that without her, our family, for the most part was only being held together by strings, would fall apart.”
“The placement of the pictures was telling of how he’d lived his life – not at all like a straight line from start to finish but more of a never ending circle. I realized how free he was, how he didn’t live by anyone else’s rules – those contrived rules that trap us in. He was someone who defied all labels and categories, a true nonconformist. He just was, and what a wonderful thing to be in this world of sameness.”
“He didn’t care so much about what society says about how you should live your life. He didn’t look to the outside for happiness. He knew the limitations of the outside world that is. He lived from the inside. He was a painter, a scholar, and a musician. His paintings never hung in any galleries. His name isn’t in any scholarly publications, and he never performed for any audiences. He didn’t have to. He knew the real joy and richness that came from learning and creating, and that was enough for him.”
“The golden garden bird of peace.”
Having followed Grace’s career as a writer, almost from its inception, I have watched this author of contemporary literary fiction, hone and finesse her writing style, as this family saga series has unfolded, into this latest episode, the highly polished artistic prose and quality of narrative and dialogue, which is the unique and unconventional, The Bird That Sang In Color.
Whilst the series does feature the same family, with each ongoing episode being narrated from a different perspective by the individual members, each book can be read in isolation as a stand alone story, as the backstory is seamlessly woven into the narrative, in an unobtrusive, yet totally cohesive way.
The family are the continuous story, their experiences the ever evolving premise, their outcomes the never ending changes of lives well lived in.
This is definitely not a static story, but one which evolves fluidly; with great heart and humour; terrible tragedy and loss; desperate sadness and intense love; lives and time lost and ever-lasting memories found, over a period of several decades, and ultimately asks the question:
“What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”
A consummate exponent in the art of storytelling and skilled in the imagery of words, Grace offers, in this well constructed timeline and study of human behaviour, a glimpse into the highly textured, multi faceted, multi aspect, daily lives which most of us lead and which many of us rarely have the time to analyse or reflect upon.
Grace perceptively highlights and unpicks for scrutiny, everyday actions, deeds and conversations, between members of what I would consider to be, this close-knit, rather volatile, insecure and highly emotionally charged family and whilst Donna may provide the central focus of Grace’s observations, it is almost impossible to separate her feelings from those of her siblings, parents, husband and children, as their lives are so closely woven together and inextricably linked. Without exception, the characters are all emotionally complex and the dynamics between them are complicated, not always making them easy to connect with, or for them to connect with each other. This can lead to some genuine friction between them, albeit that they are still a very close family unit, which I was completely invested in.
With total authority, maturity and confidence, Grace observationally questions the way in which Donna almost attempts to live her life through that of her brother Vincent, often trying to change and influence his lifestyle and decision making processes, albeit with the best of intentions and with his supposed happiness at heart. To some extent Vincent and Donna are two of a kind, as they have a mutual love of art and music, which means that interaction between them is intimate and engaging, with a genuine depth of feeling and mutual respect. This synergy is actually quite surprising, as their personalities and emotional intelligence are vastly different, as Donna realises only when it is too late for her to make amends. She finally understands from Vincent’s legacy to her, that he never really needed or wanted the ‘help and advice’ she was wont to dish out all too frequently. He had already made peace with himself, as his lifetime of pictures made abundantly clear and all he ever really wanted was for Donna to make that same emotional connection with her own life, to reconcile past, present and future, in a life lived in full and wonderful colour!
Once she understands that Vincent, with his genuine depth of character, has left her the key to free herself from the shackles in which she has voluntarily chained herself for so long, Donna’s world of opportunities and new experiences, opens up before her eyes. She is finally free to look back on her life and forward to her future, comfortable in her own skin and at peace with the war which had been raging inside her for so long.
As I immersed myself in this lyrical and lovingly written, character driven narrative, I unexpectedly discovered my own answer to Grace’s profound and thought provoking question begin to unfold, in the highly charged and personal memories I found myself uncovering along the way, revealing the true, long forgotten pictures, I had buried in the past.
I think that whilst hoping every reader will eventually arrive at the same destination, Grace has written this story in such a way that each will take their own uniquely individual and personal journey to get there. I know I did, and that’s what makes reading so wonderful for me!
A PDF copy of this book for review, was kindly gifted to me by the author.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!