The Bird House
Washington Square Press (Simon and Schuster), Feb 1 2011, $14.00
In Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, septuagenarian Ann Biddle knows her short term memory is failing her as she suffers from dementia. On the other hand her long term memory works better than ever as recalls in vivid detail her past; especially traumatic events. She knows everything about her daughter’s death and her failed marriage, for instance.
Her eight years old granddaughter Ellie asks for her help with a school project. Ann is excited, but knows her daughter-in-law Tinsley will interfere as she cocoons her daughter from hurts. As Ann and Tinsley war over Ellie, the child feels unsure what to do as she does not want to hurt either her mom or grandma but struggles with her older loved ones trying to control her relationship with the other.
The Bird House is a wonderful family drama that looks deeply at the relationship between three generations of women. The story line in some ways is a parable about the American family as Ann begins to understand nuances re her mom and grandma at war over her. For instance, the little girl concludes "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (Lincoln) and her loved ones created a governance “constitution” built on lies and secrets that led to remorse and regrets, but remains strong and positive. With three real people acting and reacting in genuine ways, Kelly Simmons provides a super relationship feud in which one family represents the national family.