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The Gravity of Birds

The Gravity of Birds

A Novel

  • reading group guide
A debut novel already destined to be a book club favorite. “With its deft interweaving of psychological complexity and riveting narrative momentum, with its gorgeous prose and poetic justice, The Gravity of Birds is about sibling rivalry, tragedies, and resurrections. And it’s irresistibly exquisite” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Forty-four years after the brilliant young painter, Thomas Bayber, first meets Alice and Natalie Kessler, Bayber unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Alice, and Natalie. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting. But their task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Alice and Natalie, who seem to have disappeared.

Told in alternating chapters that weave revelations about the sisters’ past with clues Finch and Jameson discover in the present, this story sets three characters on a collision course with their histories, showing how families tear themselves apart and then try to bind themselves together again, not always creating the same fabric. The Gravity of Birds“combines the drama of warring sisters, the mystery of a missing painting, and the sorrow of lost love into a haunting elegy that will…leave you breathless” (Tiffany Baker, author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County).
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451689778 | 
  • July 2014
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Video

Tracy Guzeman on her debut novel, THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS

In this entrancing debut novel, two sisters and a reclusive artist share devastating secrets that threaten to unravel their lives and destroy them.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Gravity of Birds includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Tracy Guzeman. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Alice Kessler and her older sister, Natalie, first met the brilliant young painter Thomas Bayber towards the end of summer in 1963 while vacationing with their parents in upstate New York. Both sisters were drawn to Bayber, and their encounters with him that summer changed their lives and their relationship with each other forever.

Forty-four years later, Bayber is a renowned yet dissolute artist nearing the end of his life. He summons Dennis Finch, an art history professor intimate with Bayber’s work, and Stephen Jameson, a young art authenticator hoping to regain respectability in his field, to show them a previously unknown painting: Kessler Sisters, a disturbing work that depicts the young Bayber, Alice, and Natalie. Bayber’s desire to have the painting sold ignites a chain of events requiring Finch and Jameson to find Alice and Natalie. But the sisters have disappeared without a trace.

The story weaves together the past and the present, revealing the sisters’ histories with see more

About the Author

Tracy Guzeman
Photograph by Chris Hardy

Tracy Guzeman

Tracy Guzeman lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories. The Gravity of Birds is her first novel.

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