Murder, scandal, family, growing up; Joyce Carol Oates’s Little Bird of Heaven begins with semi-appealing oddity but sadly never flourishes into an exciting timeline of events.

The first half of the novel is told through the mind of Krista, the daughter of Eddy Diehl, an accused murderer of Zoe¬†Kruller¬†with whom he commits adultery (he’s not the only man in Sparta, New York to do so). The second half is told from the point of view of Aaron, the son of the murdered. Like our narrators, the other characters, a handful or so, were awfully non-dimensional; it was quite difficult to connect with any of them. Dramatic scenes were too dry, expressions of love too superficial – being dropped straight into the chaos left no time to warm up to the characters; be prepared to feel not dislike or like but indifference.

The end of the novel hardly wraps anything up, and it almost offers some satisfaction relating to who actually murdered Zoe Kruller, but that offer slips away and we’re left with an awkward, lust filled night between Krista and Aaron that perhaps was foreshadowed, but as it was happening felt like most of the novel: flat.


Instead, read The Gravedigger’s Daughter or Blonde.

 

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