A WALL OF BRIGHT DEAD FEATHERS
By Babette Fraser Hale
Publisher: Winedale Publishing
Pub Date: March 1st, 2021
Categories: Short Stories / Literary Fiction
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Most are newcomers to the scenic, rolling countryside of central Texas whose charms they romanticize, even as the troubles they hoped to leave behind persist. Twelve stories highlight “the book’s recurring theme of desire—for freedom, for clarity, for autonomy, and for personal fulfillment … When women are alone, unencumbered and unbeholden to anyone, they engage in intense internal reflection and show reverence for nature—and during these scenes, Hale’s language is luminescent” (Kirkus Reviews).
PRAISE FOR A WALL OF BRIGHT DEAD FEATHERS: “Hale shows a great respect for her characters and for the difficulty of their deceptively ordered existence, as well as for the problems they suffer because so much cannot be spoken.” — Francine Prose, on “Silences”
“A vivid set of tales about connection to other people and to the natural world…Hale’s lovely prose shows a keen eye for detail…” – Kirkus Reviews
Ironically, the title story of this collection was my least favorite. Not that it was poorly written. Rather, I just couldn’t relate to those characters who were so self-absorbed that they seemed to only care about themselves. But I did get the message of the story that illustrates how hard it is to step away from what is known and comfortable, even when your heart is asking you to do so.
One of many characters I could relate to was the artist Johanna in the story A Skeptical Parrot. I really liked Johanna’s creative spirit, her forward thinking for that time in history, and her fondness for wildflowers. At one point she says to the artist Conrad “We rarely noticed a single wildflower,” … “It seems unfair.”
That sentiment made me smile. I love wildflowers and rarely miss a chance to stop to look at the singular beauty of just one bloom.
I smiled again later in the story when Johanna ponders the role of women through a lens of feminist-thinking that was an anomaly for a woman during the Civil War era. She is considering whether she should settle for being a wife and mother instead of following her dream to be an artist. Is that even possible for a woman, she wonders.
At another point, she reflects on how the lives of the white, German women are perhaps easier than the enslaved Africans. “This is beyond question. But freedom requires more than an absence of abuse and ownership.”
To me, that was the beginning of an anti-racist way of thinking, which was another deviation from the norm of that time. I wished I could go back in time and meet Johanna and say, “Kudos to you for seeing the Africans as people instead of property.”
In the story, Silences, my heart went out to Alys as she dealt with her husband who had somehow ruined their lives and sent them from a life of comfort to living out in the country and barely scraping by. She also had to deal with her teenage son who had his own issues, which left him and the father and Alys barely speaking to each other. While the people rarely spoke, the story spoke volumes about how relationships dry up if not nurtured by shared words.
A recurring element in the first few stories is drought. The characters are challenged in small ways because of the lack of rain,and the same way drought can decimate the land, the droughts in the different relationships decimates families. While that wasn’t a major story element, I noticed it and came to appreciate that parallel.
These stories are richly textured, with wonderful characters presented in a prose that is such a such a pleasure to read. This book is getting one of my rare 5 stars, that I reserve for the best of the best.
Babette Fraser Hale’s fiction has won the Meyerson Award from Southwest Review, a creative artist award from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, and been recognized among the “other distinguished stories” in Best American Short Stories, 2015. Her story “Drouth” is part of the New York Public Library’s digital collection. Her nonfiction has appeared in Texas Monthly, Houston City, and the Houston Chronicle. She writes a personal essay column for the Fayette County Record.
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TWO WINNERS each receive a signed bookplate
+ $20 Brazos Bookstore Gift Card to buy the book
(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, 4/2/2021)
Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life Tour Page
for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit the blogs directly:
|3/23/21||Author Video||The Page Unbound|
|3/23/21||Excerpt||Texas Book Lover|
|3/24/21||BONUS Promo||LSBBT Blog|
|3/25/21||Review||Rainy Days with Amanda|
|3/25/21||Author Interview||Chapter Break Book Blog|
|3/27/21||Excerpt||All the Ups and Downs|
|3/28/21||Guest Post||The Clueless Gent|
|3/29/21||Author Interview||Hall Ways Blog|
|3/30/21||Review||Reading by Moonlight|
|3/31/21||Guest Post||Librariel Book Adventures|
|4/1/21||Review||It’s Not All Gravy|
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