Monday, January 15, 2024

A Bird Alone by Ericka Clay Book Review

About the Book:

Marge Marksmen lives in a world beyond her control. As the widow of a once struggling traveling vacuum salesman, Marge faces motherhood in a single-wide trailer in the mid-eighties, barely able to keep her teenage daughter in line, not to mention her autistic son. She lives retreated within herself, having once given life a second chance with a new man and a new job, only to have both taken away savagely by the hands of a stranger one summer evening in the seventies. Marge has since convinced herself that God is not to be trusted, relying on her weekly welfare checks and political affiliation to keep her afloat.

Her daughter, Whitney, lives in a separate reality. Her hope is in her boyfriend, Jamal, and the baby she's recently conceived. She's convinced it's her ticket out of the trailer park and into a more normal existence that doesn't involve an out-of-touch mother or a brother she doesn't understand. But when her dream of a happy family peters out, and Whitney discovers a heartbreaking secret Jamal has been keeping from her, Whitney takes fate into her own hands, changing the course of her life forever.

Told through the perspectives of a combative mother and daughter and the people who love them, A Bird Alone shows how God's grace seeps through the cracks of even the most hardened circumstances and how His hand steers life's outcome, not our own.

My Review:

Clay is not afraid to write about serious subjects. This novel includes autism, racial prejudice, homosexuality, single motherhood from extramarital sex and difficult family relationships. She is great at exploring the feelings of broken and dysfunctional people. The characters in this novel are well developed.

Clay is a word smith and is very creative in the use of language. Generally that makes for a captivating read. I felt, on occasion, the creativity was too much. One example, “The feeling was an overwhelming sweep that must have been residing in the same dirty corners as all her other emotions.” (1294/3662) That sentence is evidence of Clay's creativity yet I have no idea what an “overwhelming sweep” is. Another area where the writing style was distracting is in the chapter divisions. An example was Chapter 19 featuring Stacey. Chapter 20 begins with “she” sentences but it is not until well into the paragraph we find that Marge is now the female of reference.

This is an engaging novel exploring the choices people make how God can redeem the damage and provide a future. Clay's writing style may be distracting at times but the overall work is engaging. 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Ericka Clay is a traditionally published novelist and poet formerly represented by Robyn Russell. She graduated from the University of Arkansas Creative Writing Department and is the author and publisher of several books. Her latest novel, A Bird Alone, is due to be published early 2024.

She's working on a new book project called Letters to My Former Self, an epistolary memoir that features letters she's writing as a believer to the old her, an atheist woman in the 21st century.

Ericka has been awarded several times by Writers Digest for various short fiction pieces. She has written four novels (one of which placed as a quarter-finalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest) and has had the privilege of sharing her craft, teaching writing classes, and holding writing workshops in the South Texas area.

Ericka lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and daughter and an insatiable need to push buttons, both figuratively and literally.

You can find out more at 

Independently published, 250 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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