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Winter Birds

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  643 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. On a snowy Thanksgiving day in North Carolina, a dreamy eight-year-old is pushed headlong into the adult world by a violent quarrel between his parents. Jim Grimsley's brilliant first novel unfolds in a strikingly unconventional way--as the boy tells himself his own story. A shattering ...more
Published January 9th 1994 by Algonquin Books (first published 1992)
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Jim Grimsley 's Winter Birds is one of the most painful, moving and at the same time one of the most poetic, poignant piece of literature I've ever read. The first what came to my mind if I should describe it in one sentence- Winter Birds is a beautifully written gut-wrenching powerful story that will break your heart.

Jim Grimsley is a writing genius.

A début novel of Jim Grimsley, Winter Birds, is a prequel to Comfort and Joy, tells the story of Dan's childhood and lifts the veil of secrecy su
Dec 02, 2014 Maya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

As you walk you dread the things you have learned to dread: your Papa, your special blood, anything that shakes it. You place each step carefully so you do not fall.

Winter Birds is haunting, and painful to read but so beautifully written I couldn't put it down.

Grown-up Danny tells this story to 8 years old Danny and this allowed some distance but at the same time made me feel as if he was telling the story to me.

Danny and his four siblings live in extreme poverty with an alcoholic and abusive
I don't ever remember having such a heavy heart while reading a book.

I cry in despair for every woman and mother in the world that has to go through this in her life. I cry for every child whose childhood had been stolen before it began. I cry for every grown-up person who has such dark past and carries it till the end. I cry rivers.

Can't even discuss it right now - too painful. Especially knowing that the author's story was similar to Danny's.

The only thing that helps coping with this book i
Mar 21, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love stories that make me feel, this broke my heart.It was told from the narrorators perspective. I loved the writing style and the originality. I love how the brothers and sister stick together to keep each other safe. This is a terrible situation, when you have five kids to support how do you do it on your own? It really all depeneds on what kind of support you have, where you live, and the era you were living in. Odds were agaisnt this family. They had no where to go and had to endure all o ...more
"I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up, no matter how loud he yells. Except then I'd be scared to wake up and see what he did when I was asleep." These lines sum up the sense of impending doom which pervade young Danny's life with an abusive, alcoholic father. In barely over 200 pages and with simple, subtle language, this book is able to elicit an incredible amount of emotion, from fear and horror to the love of Danny and his siblings for each other and for the loving but ineffectual mothe ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Sofia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Excellent flowing narrative which drew me in and made me continue wanting to read with nary a gaze at the remaining percentage as is my wont in difficult reads. I consider this a major feat when considering the subject matter.

A never ending cycle of violence. Here we walk a bit with Mae Ellen and her children as they trudge this circle. Longing to escape. Hoping to break the circle, unable to. Difficult for me, an outsider to understand what keeps one tied to such a destructive relationship. Thi
This book is heartbreakingly beautiful. I started this morning and absolutely could not put it down (granted it short at 209 pages it seems like it is just a bit longer than novella status).

The second person point of view took me a chapter or so to get used to reading, but once I was into it seemed the only way to tell this story. There is absolutely nothing new here...abuse, alcohol, and poverty go hand in hand and certainly the story that Grimsley tells (while sad) is nothing especially ground
Mel Bossa
Sep 30, 2012 Mel Bossa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Danny Crell tells himself a story...
It's a story that will haunt me for a very long time. Grimsley's Dream Boy had already scarred my soul, and I knew I'd be deeply moved and even disturbed by his first novel, Winter Birds.
Yes, it's another tale of poverty, misery, horrendous domestic abuse, alcoholism...But where Jim Grimsley gets you, is with the minutia of it. Every breath is there. Every second of the scene is accounted for. And before you know it, you are sitting there with Danny, Allen, A
Shawn (ThatOneEnglishGradStudent)
2.5 stars

I think my main problem with this book lies in some significant tonal inconsistencies. Part of the novel reads like an author trying to work through and cope with his extremely troubled childhood through his fiction, and overall, that's what I feel the book is trying to be. But there are also large chunks in the middle which read just like a harrowing psychological thriller/quasi-horror novel, where there's so much tension and so much going on that it's almost impossible for the writing
Emily P.
Jul 04, 2012 Emily P. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, harrowing, heartbreaking. Leaves so many questions though. Maybe that speaks to life's complexity and the book's deceptive simplicity. A worthwhile read.
Jan 23, 2013 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winter Birds is the third book I have read this year by Jim Grimsley and like the previous works this was a definite winner. Comfort and Joy was the first book of his I read and it traced the meeting and eventual loving relationship of two men from completely different backgrounds. Ford McKinney comes from an old-monied Savannah family and like previous generations is a successful doctor. Dan Crell is a hospital administrator working in the same hospital as Ford who comes from impoverished rural ...more
Husbands who abused their wives and Wives that let them. Author's writing is poetic and descriptive. But it caused me to flip the papers without feeling much. Maybe I wasn't born in abusive surrounding I dun understand I wasn't in their shoes. But I doubt I would let someone hurt me, let alone hit me abuse me psychologically or physically.
It needs to stop. Men abusing women. It gotta stop.
Aug 09, 2013 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): Jim Grimsley’s Winter Birds was rejected for decades, by American publishers, who called it too dark and depressing. The book is terrifying. Told in second person, this autobiographical first novel tells the story of eight-year-old Danny Crell. Danny and his youngest brother, Grove, are hemophiliacs—their world is full of knives.

Most of the story takes place over Thanksgiving, when their father’s malignant rage comes to a devastating climax. But more chilling than
Oi Yin
Jul 25, 2007 Oi Yin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The author draws you immediately by making you the protagonist in the story. It is told from the point of view of the oldest son who happens to be a hemophiliac. He chronicles a father's descent into violence through alchoholism and loss and a mother's struggle to ensure the survival of her children and loss of love for the man her husband has become. The narration creates a feeling of being there, feeling the pain of the characters as though it were your own. Although this may not be the lighte ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jim Grimsley is my new favorite author.Winter Birds is the kind of book that will send you scurrying to find out what else this author has written. Much to my delight, I find that Winter Birds is this wonderful writer's first book and there are several that he has written since . This story is shown to us through the eyes of an eight year old boy. His name is Danny Krell. It is a story of abuse of the father towards the mother. I will say very little about the book itself because I do not want t ...more
val killpack
Jul 24, 2009 val killpack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A poignant piece of literature

This stunning first novel shows Grimsley's talent as an author. Written in second person POV---which is hard to pull off---the narrative brings the reader into the haunting world of the protagonist, telling the story of a young boy responding to his father's violence with imagination and heart. Full of beautifully-written prose and emotionally-rounded characters, this book will leave the reader asking for more.
Aug 04, 2013 Jwsrauch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heart rendering book about crisp Winter days in the south, and physical and mental human abuse. A novel about alcholism, and the possible ramifications. A novel about the love and bond of mother and child, while a human being understands a "lot" that has been given to her, how to handle it at the time, and an understanding of how what children see, can possibly shape their adult lives.
Would be interesting to read a novel about Danny's adult life.
Lee Howard
Jun 23, 2011 Lee Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winter Birds is one of the most beautiful and excruciating stories I’ve ever read. If you read it for any reason at all, I daresay you'll be moved.

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Dani Longamore
Nov 12, 2014 Dani Longamore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feel like I should have rated the book higher - because I will never forget it. I can't though, because it hurts. The book hurts. The story draws you in, and you are forced to see inside a family full of broken people. A friend recommended it to me - and I can't decide if I'm glad of it or not. But, like I said, I will never forget this book. That's saying something.
Jan 25, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this because Dan Crell from Grimsley's "Comfort and Joy" makes reference to his father and the circle house when he was a little boy. This is Dan's story of coping and surviving an abusive father and the effect on the family. I generally avoid these stories, but this one tears at your heart. It is so beautifully written that you can't stop reading. One of my favorite authors.
Mar 05, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly grim and terrifying short novel about a poor Southern family held hostage by a cruel and abusive father. The author writes this semi-autobiography with such poetry and grace, though, that he renders terror and violence into pure art. It's impossible not to get swept up in it.
Nov 10, 2012 Jules rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm devastated after finishing this book. I'm not sure I can read this again, as beautiful as it was. The author pulls you into the pain and violence of this story of domestic abuse, and you wonder how these characters can ever pull through emotionally intact.
Deb Williams
Nov 29, 2014 Deb Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winter Birds is haunting. An honestly written, raw tale of family craziness, disjointed love and personal survival. Written quite successfully in second person, this book will quickly get under your skin and that's a good thing.
Apr 12, 2011 Jetan rated it really liked it
You can easily blow through this one in a matter of hours, a short, easy and gripping read. I definitely recommend Winter Birds to everyone, a heart-wrenching tale of domestic abuse told by a young boy entirely in the 2nd person.
Mar 25, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May 31, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This guy is a creative writing professor at Emory. Sadly I never got to take a class from him, his writing is gorgeous.
DeWitt Brinson
Nov 23, 2011 DeWitt Brinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best novel written in second person that I've ever read. Not that you know me or really know what that means in terms of my reading his. But still, the best.
Nov 10, 2008 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Purely amazing. Every time I read it I get something new out of it. Narrative is so diff from other books and the entire piece is written as if it were poetry. The first page gets me every time!
Dec 09, 2009 Maryann rated it it was amazing
daniel nolan
Apr 22, 2009 daniel nolan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His writing is really, really vivid. All his stories just hit you deep.
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Jim Grimsley is a playwright and novelist. Jim's first novel, Winter Birds, was published by Algonquin Books in 1994. The novel won the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. Jim's second novel, Dream Boy, won the American Library Association GLBT Award for Literature (the Stonewa ...more
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“He asks, in a softer voice, "Does your arm still hurt?"
You touch it with your hand. The big ache is gone, leaving only the little, underneath ache that will gather and swell against the bone. The blood leaks out of the vein where he grabbed you. But you say, "It's better now.”
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