Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Little Bird of Heaven
Joyce Carol Oates
Little Bird of Heaven
Fourth Estate, 2010
In the first part of this novel (and the most interesting part of it) we are introduced to the protagonist, Krista Diehl, 11 years old girl. Time in the narrative changes, moving forward and backward. In 1983, in the small town Sparta, Zoe Kruller who once worked at a local diner, but never leaving hopes on show business was brutally murdered in her home. Zoe had a bluegrass band with which she gave some gigs. Police suspicion falls on two men: Zoe's husband, with whom she has not lived for some time, and her lover, Eddy Diehl - the father of Krista. None, however, was not arrested, but Eddy's affairs became known to his wife. Eddy is forbidden to approach the Diehl’s house, not allowed to meet with his children, Krista and Ben. However, Eddy is constantly drinking, lives in another town nearby, and occasionally visits his daughter. And Krista is glad about that. She feels that her father would not lie when he says that he is innocent of murder. Krista loves his father more than mother, and in any disputes she protects him.
The strength of this novel is not in the plot, which in general is nothing special, but in the tone of the narrative, which Oates so successfully invented and used. A little girl who madly loves her father and, despite the obvious things, for all his sins, forgives his father, preferring him to her mother. Oates told the story of how two families are breaking down at once, from the inside, successfully selecting the lens: see through the innocent eyes of a child for what happens in adult life: murder, betrayal, suffering, injustice, shame.
The first part of the novel is simply brilliant. Transposing the action and the memories of Krista in the years ahead, then a week ago, the author collects before the reader not even pieces of the puzzle, but pieces of the life of Krista, her family, living a small town. Oates has created not only a convincing Krista’s portrait, but also portrait of her father.
The problem of the novel is in its second part. Oates tried to look at the story from another angle, in order to not only complete the picture, but also create another one complex character of Aaron, the son of Zoe. But nothing good comes out of such attempts. In the third person narrative there is not so much appeal, than in the first-person narrative. Aaron is less interesting to the reader character; the author couldn't create a unique identity, as happened with Krista in the first part. Aaron is more formulaic. In addition, we learned all story from Krista, and re-read what we have read, but in the worst performance, is not something desirable.
In the final, Oates raised another important theme of the book - the theme of memory. Staying in her hometown - it means to Krista to bury herself, to bury under the remains of a past that is not its best to remind myself of daily. And little bird of heaven flies away from her past.