Title: Little Bird of Heaven
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Length: 448 pages
A little difficult to digest, at times, but, overall – an excellent read.
As should be rather clear by now, I’m a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates. Her stories are raw, brimming with emotion, and, more often than not, the types of stories that will infiltrate your dreams and haunt you for hours, days, or, sometimes, weeks after you put the book down. These types of stories aren’t for everyone, but they’ve always been my cup of tea.
This latest choice, however, proved to be a little difficult for me to power through at times. This wasn’t due to any flaw in her story or writing, but more-so because my brain has been overloaded by other stuff that I didn’t feel fully energized to pick up all that she was throwing down. And, oh boy, does she throw it down….
Little Bird of Heaven is set in a fictitious town in New York – small, working-class, and a little rough around the edges. The narrative is broken out into sections – two by Krista Diehl and one by Aaron Kruller. The characters are linked by a gruesome crime – the murder of Aaron’s mother, Zoe Kruller, a local singer who dreams of making it big and getting far away from this town.
Krista’s father, Eddy, is a prime suspect in the case, due to his affair with Zoe and the fact that he is the last person known to see her alive. The other prime suspect is Aaron’s father, known to have a jealous and violent streak to him. The reader watches the lives of, well, everyone, fall apart. Love blossoms, love dies. Some are driven to succeed and others are weighed down by the past, burying their woes in drugs and alcohol.
As in all of her novels, Oates paints a poignant, beautiful, and treacherous picture of the fragility of life and humanity. She wades far out into the muck and manages to find and produce something beautiful.