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Before Women Had Wings

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,360 ratings  ·  224 reviews
My name is Avocet Abigail Jackson. But because Mama couldn't find anyone who thought Avocet was a fine name for a child, she called me Bird. Which is okay by me. She named both her children after birds, her logic being that if we were named for something with wings then maybe we'd be able to fly above the shit in our lives. . . .

So says Bird Jackson, the mesmerizing narra
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Paperback, Ballantine Reader's Circle, 304 pages
Published April 22nd 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1996)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
188th out of 843 books — 2,077 voters
Coming Home by Paloma BeckThe House on Prospect by Bernadette  WalshBefore Women Had Wings by Connie May FowlerSlammed by Colleen HooverHome Movie by Ellen Akins
Death of a Parent in Fiction
3rd out of 34 books — 9 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kate
This book should be depressing. It really should be, but when I read the final word and closed the book for the last time, I came away with an awesome sense of hope. Connie May Fowler expertly explores themes of growing up, poverty, abuse, abandonment and grief. The graphic descriptions of abuse, both physical and verbal, turned my stomach, but rather than being voyeuristic, the pain enhanced the feeling of hope. Readers actually believed that the characters could break out of the spiral they fi ...more
Gayle
I LOVED this book! It takes place in the mid sixies in Florida and is narrated by a young girl who was the same age I was when I lived in Florida then. I could just breathe that humid, salty clime that was part and parcel of my childhood! But this book has a serious theme--the abuse, alcoholism, and poverty that children are victims to through no fault of their own. It is painful to visit such themes but the wonderful "grace-note" of a surprising savior to the protaganist, Bird (how southern a n ...more
Joanna Bastian
"Details are what I'm about - stacks and stacks of details - the bones of my family, calcified vessels, the marrow chock-full of wishes and regrets. In my mind I pick up the bones one by one - a leg bone, a hip, then a spine that looks like a witch's ladder. Before you know it, this skeleton made of memories is rattling me."
So begins the tale of a six year old girl in 1965 Florida. The tale is rich in details that convey the stifling humidity, the salty scents, and the ring of the cidadas. Avoc
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Shaindel
I had always wanted to read this book because Connie May Fowler was a member of the writing community where I lived in Central Florida from 2004-2006, and I saw her frequently at literary events, and I'd heard great things about this book. I finally decided that this was the summer off from teaching that I would read it, and I'm so pleased that I did.

Connie May Fowler can create sympathy in dysfunctional characters in a way that few other writers can. I really enjoyed her portrayal of the young
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Lee
Jul 30, 2007 Lee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers interested in women/child issues
Shelves: coming-of-age
When I started reading this book,it reminded me of Bastard Out of Carolina; I also saw similiarities to Glass Castle. Bird, a young girl, narrates the novel about her dysfunctional highly abusive family. The strength of the book is her voice -- the pain is palpable and the coping mechanisms she employs commendable. Her relationship with an elderly neighbor is an important reminder about how anyone can make a huge difference to a child in our own neighborhoods/communities with relatively small ge ...more
Ruby
(Autobiographical Novel)—"Back in 1965, on a day so hot that God Almighty should have been writhing with sick-to-the-stomach guilt over driving His children out of the cool green of Eden, my daddy walked into our general store, held a revolver to his head, told my mama that he couldn't take any more and that because of her harsh ways and his many sins he was going to blow his brains out." What an opening sentence! Totally gripping. It demands that you keep reading while deftly establishing the v ...more
Claudia
My sister gave me this book to read and I put it on the shelf. My younger daughter picked it up a year later and read it because she just wanted something to read. When she finished, she came and laid down next to me, started crying and said I love you Mom. After that, I read the book and it so resonated with me and I felt that some of my sister and my lives were in there. And I called my mom and told her I loved her. More importantly, I gained some understanding and insight into her life. I sob ...more
Chana
This book is about domestic abuse between spouses and to children, drinking, hopelessness and poverty. Painful to read, very difficult to continue when expecting the next violent act, the next horrible name calling. In a way I can understand people acting and reacting in the cycle of violence passed from parents to children, but the action of Bird's father, taken when he was trying to punish his wife, was one of the most cold-blooded acts of domestic violence I have ever heard of. I didn't forgi ...more
Rena Searles
Loved this book! Sensitive treatment of a difficult subject and a triumph of the human spirit. I related so much to the little girl in the story and her daydreaming to escape the harshness of her reality. Also, appreciated the author's skill in portraying the parents in an empathetic light. Well written and authentic.
Marci
I want to give this book 3.5 stars, perhaps 4. I really enjoyed this book beginning to end. I read it in basically two sittings, not wanting to put it down -the story was so riveting. I had a few problems with some of the writing and tone of the book and that is why I downgraded it to 3.5.

The two issues I had were that the character is 9 years old and has some very profound thoughts, which I found hard to believe came from a 9 year old. And, although it is clear during most of the story that it
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Joyce
This was a heart-wrenching good read about a young girl with a good heart growing up with alcoholic parents. Her life is tough, she's belittled constantly, physically and mentally beaten and yet she still loves her parents. The characters are so well portrayed, the writing so realistic and yet it's not all doom and gloom. There's some tender moments and an overall good storyline.
Kim L.
This one is a tough read because it is heart wrenching from start to finish. It is beautifully written. The fact that it is told by the child, Bird, makes it all the more powerful. I'd have given it 4 stars but it made me sad I couldn't quite do it.
Brittany Michelle
I can't even explain how much I love this book because I can relate to Bird's upbringing and her trials so much. I often got lost in some passages, confusing her pain and misfortunes for my own...
Sueij
I think I read about 8 other books, short stories, or plays between the time I started this book and when I finally actually ended it. It just couldn't really keep my attention.

On the other hand, I did keep coming back to it. There was something about it that I couldn't just walk away from, and by the end, I'm really glad that I stuck with it.

I did have two really fascinating observations in the course of reading this book. The first was about three pages in. We knew that the narrator was a chil
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Carla
I read this book for book club, and after viewing several sites, including Goodreads, it appears that almost everyone really enjoyed this book. I didn't. I don't know how this book differed from other child abuse books, except that it was a white poor family in the south. After I finished the book, I heard that it was similar if not exactly like the author's family history. For that, I'm empathetic.

It appears the author wanted to tell her "story", and with permission and assistance from sibling
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Samantha
It was difficult getting through this book, not because it wasn't excellent but rather because it was so hard reading a story so sad. Set in Florida in the mid 60s, Before Women Had Wings tells the story of a family broken by a never ending cycle of violence and shame. Told from the story of a 9 year old girl, the violence and abuse were made all the more unbearable when juxtaposed with the girl's innocence and hope of something better. However, despite the novel's themes, the story was so beaut ...more
Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
Powerful book! I read this in one sitting last night because my heart was totally drawn into Bird's story. Ms. Fowler portrays the abused child perfectly. The love/hate relationship with the parent. She also gives you insight to the abuser. It's a book that will stay with you after you finish it.
Qiez
I struggled (mentally,emotionally) with the women. A very good book for those who adore feminism and the likes.
Christina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marilyn Saul
Bird captivated me from page 1, so I kept on reading, even though the child abuse scenes were horrifying and I hated the mother - just really couldn't forgive her. I understand abuse is a nurtured disease, but I cannot fathom beating one's child and NOT registering distaste, not registering that you need to quit and change. Anyway, Miss Zora was a wonderful addition, and I wanted the book to continue focusing on her and her life. I really didn't get the Big Al thing - rather stuck in there. Anyw ...more
Daryl Leyesa
This book tells a story of three women – a mother and her two girls – and how they have survived with and without the men in their lives. It is also a story about how these men rendered them flightless with plumes weighed down by generations of beatings; song less, silenced by abuse and blame. Not that these women didn't try, but it's just that no matter how high they dived or how fast they chased the winds, they couldn't sustain the flight. Not until they faced their fears. Not until then. So t ...more
TBML
This was the Branigan BookClub selection for July 2005.

As an avid birder, I have always thrilled at the sight of an avocet. I suppose that that was always in the back of my mind as I read BEFORE WOMEN HAD WINGS. Fowler makes Avocet Jackson, or "Bird" as her mother calls her, fragile yet resilient, small and delicate, but tough and tenacious, just as I have always regarded the bird she is named after. That particular combination of characteristics endears her to me.

Very early in the book, we lear
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Corpus Amos
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark
This was the Branigan BookClub selection for July 2005.

As an avid birder, I have always thrilled at the sight of an avocet. I suppose that that was always in the back of my mind as I read BEFORE WOMEN HAD WINGS. Fowler makes Avocet Jackson, or "Bird" as her mother calls her, fragile yet resilient, small and delicate, but tough and tenacious, just as I have always regarded the bird she is named after. That particular combination of characteristics endears her to me.

Very early in the book, we lear
...more
Sonya
Before Women Had Wings: Connie May Fowler
Date Finished: February 2010

Snapshot: Bird is young girl from a poor family in the rural south. The first scene takes place in their family-owned store—her dad is threatening to commit suicide. Bird’s father is an alcoholic who regularly beats Bird’s mother; Bird’s mother is a cold woman who criticizes her two daughters and her husband. The couple is only happy when they are drunk. When Bird’s mother gets a little fresh with her husband, he hires someone
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Marie
Avocet (Bird) Jackson would be described by her childhood peers as "white trash." She and her sister Phoebe are frequent targets of the alcoholic rage and neglect of their parents. When her father dies, her mother goes into a downward spiral of depression, anger, and abuse. Doesn't sound very uplifting, does it?

But Connie May Fowler's talent is that she portrays the story beautifully. She is able to depict the deep humanity of both parents, even in spite of the verbal and physical abuse. Perhap
...more
Linda
Horrifying, terrifying, mesmerizing... I couldn't stop reading hoping Bird was going to be escape the horror and abuse that was such a constant in her life. And I really hoped Glory would wake up to what hell she was putting Phoebe, Bird & Hank through. But even after the worst abuses, Bird, a true optimist, feels hope that things could change. Author notes in the back of the book were really enlightening to her childhood & how she came to write such an intense book.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
3 STARS

"Nine-year-old Bird Jackson moves with her mother and sister to the outskirts of Tampa, after the suicide of their father, a more than frustrated country music singer. Entranced by a picture of Jesus, Bird fancies herself His girlfriend and begins a spiritual search for salvation." (From Amazon)

A touching novel of a single mother and her two daughters trying to survive. Abuse, alcoholism and abandonment. I read this novel after watching the made for tv movie.
Lisa
I'm being generous and giving it 4 stars. The author is very skilled at developing characters. In fact, despite the disturbing content, I wanted to finish the book just to know the ending to Bird's story. The author was less skilled at keeping all the parts of the story in their proper place. As an example, there were bits of the story that seemed important, such as the relationship between Bird and her brother, but ended up feeling extraneous.

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“I watched as she stretched over the board to flick off a fallen leaf. Underneath her thin cotton shell, I saw how fragile the bones in her back were, far too sliver-prone, far too light to support a pair of wings.
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