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The Gravity of Birds

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,833 Ratings  ·  608 Reviews
In this compelling debut novel, an art authenticator and an art historian are employed by a famous, reclusive painter to sell a never-before-seen portrait, leading them to discover devastating secrets two sisters have kept from each other, and from the artist who determined the course of their lives.

How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kes
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 1st 2013)
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Out of the Easy by Ruta SepetysThe Gravity of Birds by Tracy GuzemanThe Painted Bridge by Wendy WallaceBlackbird by Nicole SalmondEverything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
Put a Birdcage on It
2nd out of 49 books — 14 voters
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486th out of 3,271 books — 3,917 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Diane S ☔
Aug 03, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5 A family lake house, two sisters, and a young painter living next door, who comes from a wealthy family that will not accept painting as a reliable job source. This is a quiet book, a book about things under the surface, of paintings and human hearts. About wrong decisions made that affect the future of all of them.

This book drew me in, the prose is wonderful at times, the moments shared between the characters are poignant. Misunderstandings are a the forefront of most of what happens in th
This novel tries to straddle the line between literary and commercial fiction. What the publishing gods have deemed upmarket fiction. Unfortunately for THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS, it probably tries a little too hard, and therefore doesn’t do either as effectively as if it just picked one and flew above the treetops. Instead, it crash landed into a cactus, and I was left picking needles out of my butt.

The structure proved a little confusing, with the movement between time periods, and I was prone to fo
Cassondra Windwalker
Mar 17, 2013 Cassondra Windwalker rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. The prose lilts, dips, and soars like the flight of the birds whose images run through its pages. A haunting story of the power of love, that however flawed and mysterious, must indelibly change the fate of all who experience it. Every chapter left me aching for the next. The grief bound in this book's pages was tied up with grace, so that rather being overwhelmed by sadness, the reader is bouyed by hope. These characters will stay with you long after you have finished the t ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
May 18, 2015 Melissa Crytzer Fry rated it it was amazing
Naturally, with the word “birds” in the title, I was drawn to this book. And with descriptions such as this, it certainly didn’t disappoint:

A breeze stirred the branches, and she saw the brilliant yellow head and underparts standing out like petals of a sunflower against the backdrop of leaves; the undertail, a stark white. His beak was long, pointed and black; his shoulders a mossy green, a blend of the citron yellow of his head and the flat slate of his feathers. He had a black dot of an eye,
Megan Readinginthesunshine
The cover of The Gravity Of Birds is truly beautiful, I loved the colours and the scene in the picture caught my attention straight away. I also was caught by the tagline “That summer, everything changed”….it had me intrigued instantly – What had changed? Who was affected? It made me very keen to start reading!

The Gravity Of Birds begins with two sisters, Alice and Natalie. Alice is a dreamer, whilst Natalie is very headstrong girl. Whilst on a holiday with their family, Alice is drawn in by Tho
Sep 26, 2013 Karen rated it it was amazing
I found out about 'The Gravity of Birds' by Tracy Guzeman through an email for new literary fiction from I was drawn to this particular book because of the title and the cover art. Reading the synopsis put me off because I have never been a fan of stories revolving around several characters that span scores of years. I'm older and I just don't feel that I can learn or even be surprised by anything people and characters in books do or don't do. I just don't care anymore, unfortunately ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: publisher ARC
A love story that is less about love than about the spaces between what is seen and not seen. What lies beneath the surface is as important in The Gravity of Birds as what is evident. Sisters, a family, both torn apart and held together by their interactions with the artist Thomas Bayber. There are too many traps here for the reviewer. Anything I could say would be a spoiler.

What lies beneath the surface is as important in The Gravity of Birds as what is evident. Sisters, a family, both torn ap
Sep 09, 2013 Breen rated it it was amazing
Why is it sometimes easier to write what you did not like about something, versus what you did like? Like is hard to encompass sometimes, it just is.

Here are some of my fav reviews:
“The Gravity of Birds is one of those rare, exquisitely written novels that haunt you long after you’ve finished the last page. Guzeman writes of both the fragility of the human spirit and its inner strength. The book unfurls like a hidden canvas, soaked with color, emotional longing, and a desire to make sense of wh
Feb 18, 2013 Margi rated it it was ok
I was intrigued after the first chapter, unfortunately the book went downhill from there. I found there were too many minor characters that I just did not care about. I wanted to find out about the painting as the unraveling of art history is usually quite interesting, but not here. I found this novel tedious. There were a few good chapters; when Alice gets caught in the rain, but overall, not what I thought it would be. I do think the author has a great grasp on character writing. I felt like I ...more
Oct 09, 2013 Patty rated it it was amazing
The Gravity Of Birds
Tracy Guzeman

My thoughts after reading this book...

This is a book about losses. Aching, blinding, heartbreaking life altering losses. This lovely book with its beautiful writing is about pain and sadness. It is also about lies and separation and choices...all of these made both with love and without love. The sadness in this book is heartbreaking because it can not be undone or made better. It's the kind of sadness that feels as though it could have been avoided if everyone
Oct 31, 2015 May rated it really liked it
I liked this book a great deal. I can't say I loved it because I found so much of it sad:
the sadness of a single decision and the long term ramifications, the sadness of grudges held close and the lives ruined as a result, the sadness of a lifetime of lies, the sadness of lives limited by chronic illness. Yet, Tracey Guzeman offers threads of light and love... if only each character will open up to them.
I found this book well written and truly enjoyed!
Allyce Cameron
Jul 14, 2013 Allyce Cameron rated it really liked it
Such a beautifully written and melancholy debut. All about the choices we make and how they affect our lives. Filled with descriptive imagery and three dimensional characters each with their own flaws this is a book that you won't soon forget. Jumping betweent past and present I was sorely tempted to skip chapters and read on, especially during Alice's segments, but restrained myself and everything was revealed in time. A step above the average novel I was captivated within the first chapter and ...more
May 08, 2013 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
3/26 - Won in First Reads giveaway on Goodreads.

4/27 - Received this book in the mail today.

5/8 - Totally loved this book. It wasn't "amazing" like Goodreads says when I hover over the 5 star rating, but it was really good and really well done. I liked (and didn't like) the characters. I was drawn into the story (although it was a bit slow at the beginning) and then there were the few twists that I did not anticipate that really kicked the story and interest factor into gear for me. There's a lo
Becky Loader
Nov 17, 2013 Becky Loader rated it it was amazing
I feel as if I know all the characters in Guzeman's book. She made them all visible, with their faults and foibles intact, and I was right there with them in the story. Told in chapters that correspond to different years in the development of the plot, the book unfolds quickly as a complex intertwining of places, personalities, sibling rivalry, art, deceit, and reconciliation. Two sisters and a talented young artist meet at a lake cabin, and the moment is electric. I loved the symbol of the gros ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Ashley rated it it was ok
I expected to love this. The storyline sounds promising—Thomas Bayber, a reclusive celebrated artist, unveils a provocative work he had hidden away for four decades: a portrait of himself and two sisters (Alice and Natalie Kessler) who summered in a lake house near his family’s vacation home. But before he will agree to sell the painting, Bayber sends the art historian who catalogued his works and a brilliant young art authenticator off on a quest to find Alice and Natalie, who seem to have disa ...more
May 18, 2015 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I rate books of fiction by how well I am entertained by them. This one was hard to put down, it had some mystery to it, a lot of interaction among just a few main characters, and was even funny at times. I liked the authors style, many layers all coming to together at the end, so will look for more from her.
Mar 03, 2016 Lauriann rated it it was amazing
This book is a reminder of why I am stingy with five star ratings. It is because I save them for the very, very best books, ones that leave a lasting, unforgettable impression. In the summer of 1963, sisters Alice and Natalie are book-ending the first blush of womanhood. Alice has just entered her teens and Natalie is barely looking back upon her teen-aged years. It is the summer when, at a lakeside cottage, each of them will encounter a neighboring artist several years older than them, Thomas. ...more
Beau North
Jan 09, 2016 Beau North rated it really liked it
No spoilers but vague references to plot points. This was an emotional one for me - my mother suffers from the same disease as Alice, and this book really made me think about what Alice calls "the shame of her diminishment." This book was heartbreaking, the mystery unraveled slowly enough that I was able to put the two big pieces into place well ahead of their reveal, but it was the smaller, emotional revelations that were truly the soul of this book. Natalie's motivations, Alice realizing for t ...more
May 14, 2016 Kamryn rated it really liked it

I don't think there could have been a better time to read this than when I was in my first oil painting class. I would build up texture and color and trying to highlight, only to work on this novel before moving on with my day. It almost seemed as if I had insight knowledge, a special connection with the artist in the story. Also, I got complimented on the book's cover everywhere I went as if I had something to do with it.

Goodreads summarizes the story as follows:

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessle
Nov 01, 2015 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
There are events and moments of epiphany that change the course of not just one life but many. Chapter One opens at one of those junctures. It is the summer of 1963. Fourteen year old Alice Kessler, ever watchful of both birds and adults, explores the awakening of her own sexual curiosity. She also recognizes the first symptoms of what will become a debilitating disease. At the same time her seventeen year old sister Natalie, the beauty of the family, has shifted abruptly and inexplicably from m ...more
Dale Harcombe
I was looking forward to reading this as I‘d heard a bit about it. While the story was interesting and the prose at times was well written, even beautiful at times, ultimately I was left somewhat dissatisfied. This was one of those books that was interesting enough to not give up on and to keep reading to see where it was going, yet not that interesting that I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Largely for me I think the man problem was the characters. Even though, they were all well drawn, the pr ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman is a very typical book – the plot and writing are both typical, as is the progression. There was little to separate it from the rest in terms of quirkiness or creativity. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, just something that you might want to be prepared for.

Alice is the protagonist, so a lot of The Gravity of Birds, both in the past and the present, is told from her point of view. Alice is gullible and constantly self-pitying, so she isn’t exactly someo
Aug 27, 2013 Pam rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie Brody
Sep 07, 2013 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and appreciated how much of it had to do with art and artists. Being married to an artist, the book really resonated with me despite the fact that my husband's personality is not at all like the protagonist's.

The central character in this book is Thomas Bayber, an artist of great renown but who has not painted anything for over twenty years. He is in his seventies and living as a recluse in a dark and dingy apartment in New York City. Supposedly, all of his paintings a
Abbey Liddle
Aug 20, 2013 Abbey Liddle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title: The Gravity of birds
Author: Tracy Guzeman
Publisher: Harpercollins UK
Publication Date: 15th August 2013

A haunting debut of love in all its forms, The Gravity of Birds perfectly
captures the devastating consequences betrayal can have through the decades, echoing right through to the present day.

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Maggie O’Farrell.

Sisters Alice and Natalie were once close, but adolescence has wrenched them apart. Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds; Natalie is headst
May 30, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Though well-written with an interesting premise, The Gravity of Birds ultimately feels average and unremarkable.

In the summer of 1963, famous painter Thomas Bayber meets two sisters, Natalie and Alice, and the lives of all three change forever. Decades later in 2007, Thomas tasks a friend with finding the two sisters and two of his paintings they own, all of whom have disappeared. Told in both 2007 and various times in the past, the story slowly unravels the truth of what happened between Thoma
Mar 16, 2016 Kathryn rated it liked it
First sentence: Alice haunted the mossy edge of the woods, lingering in patches of shade.

Favorite quote: Why do we lack the capacity to celebrate small bits of perfection? Unless it's obvious on a grand scale, it's not worth acknowledging. I find that extremely tiresome.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The story was uniquely woven and very interesting, but I just could not click with any of the characters. I glazed over everyone, not completely interested in any of them. Book club boo
Katie Love
Jan 04, 2015 Katie Love rated it really liked it
The Gravity of Birds is a story of two sisters torn apart and held together by secrets and words left unsaid, of an artist haunted by memories and regret, and ultimately a study in how the choices we make and our perceptions and misperceptions shape our experience of life. A haunting and beautifully written debut novel that explores art and artifice, what is seen and unseen, what lies below the surface and in all the spaces in between. This book will linger in your consciousness long after you h ...more
Jess Swann
May 09, 2015 Jess Swann rated it really liked it
Je suis ravie d'avoir pu découvrir ce roman que je n'aurais sans doute pas lu sans cette masse critique car j'ai adoré cette histoire, à la fois policière, dramatique et aussi d'amour (of course ^^). La plume de l'auteure, très vivante m'a facilement emportée dans l'histoire et j'ai été fascinée par le personnage de Thomas. Il faut dire que le premier chapitre le décrit parfaitement, jeune homme séducteur, peintre torturé autour duquel deux figures féminines et enfantines émergent : Alice, l'hér ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
This was kind of a mystery within a mystery. A famous painter reveals that he still has a painting out there that nobody knows about, but he himself does not know it's location. An art history professor and an art authenticator are given the task to find this work of art. During their search they uncover the story behind the painting which involves two sisters who the artist befriended many years before when they vacationed in neighboring cabins one summer. The book goes back and forth between t ...more
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“Before too much longer I’ll forget her minute imperfections. That’s what you end up missing the most, those little faults. They burrow under your skin. Become endearing in retrospect.” 28 likes
“The older I get, the less I enjoy the presence of other people.” 9 likes
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