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Before Women Had Wings

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,293 ratings  ·  306 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,
Paperback, Ballantine Reader's Circle, 304 pages
Published April 22nd 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published May 7th 1996)
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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,293 ratings  ·  306 reviews

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Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it
(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
Jan 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm not a big fan of the cover. Between that black and white photo of a wooden cabin and the blurb I had the sense it would read like Tobacco Road. So I had this feeling that it would read as if it were set in 1940, not 1960s and was startled when 60's items (orange juice can rollers, granny bags) were introduced.

Fowler is a fine writer...but you know, I don't think I'll be reading other novels from her. The abuse is just too violent (and perhaps described too well.) In the back I read that thi
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Rena Searles
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Shelby *trains 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.
Brittany Michelle
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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...
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I struggled (mentally,emotionally) with the women. A very good book for those who adore feminism and the likes.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Birdie grew up the youngest of three children to a rough, tough, and rowdy world of parents who fought, drank and involved her in their family drama. With beatings and verbal abuse daily Bird try's to stay out of their way but rarely suceeds. Every day her father rhreatens to kill himself in front of Bird and he finally succeeds. Bird is led to believe by her mother's words that its all her fault. Its funny the things children believe.

When her mother moves the family to Florida into a decerped,
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel is a little hard to read due to the dysfunction of the family, just made me tense, sad and mad but I didn't want to stop reading it. Oprah Winfrey made a TV movie of it and it was also quite good. Read it almost 20 years ago so I can't remember enough to write any details but I still have the book which is an indication that I may felt that I might read it again.
Diana S
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
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
Kim L.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
A young girl tries to "come of age" while her family collapses around her. She's rescued by a mysterious woman with seemingly magical powers. Similar story to Secret Life of Bees but way, way better.
Strawberry Fields
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. Couldn't put it down!
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's hard to give a sad and slightly (more than slightly) disturbing book a high rating. It feels almost as if I'm in some way condoning or even endorsing those elements that made it an uncomfortable read from time to time. Of course, I'm not. I'm rating it on how much it made me feel and how well it was written. This is a book I would recommend to the right reader, but I would need to make sure that neglect, child abuse, and spousal abuse were not triggers for them.

Bird, our 8-year-old narrato
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The character young "Bird" is caught in a despicable situation. An alcoholic father, who eventually kills himself, a physically and mentally abusive mother, and the worse part is, she knows nothing else and believes in her parents and this is love. I believe what I loved most about this story, are the saving graces and angels who come into her life and prove to her that love does not have to be so chaotic and hurtful and that there is some goodness. It is at the point in the story where, Bird ta ...more
Timothy Jenson
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-s-read-2018
I thought I'd offer a different perspective, I am a recovering alcoholic. As I was getting sober I started to realize the huge emotional abuse I inflicted on those around me. I wasn't a violent drunk but, would talk about hurting people and said a lot of cruel things and used fear to get my way. I see myself as the character of the mother in this book, but the mother who comes back to her family after getting straight. My family has forgiven me but are still scarred by my behavior. As for me it' ...more
Jill Caugherty
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The narrative voice of Bird, the young protagonist of this amazing coming-of-age novel, strengthens after the first few chapters and quickly paints a deeply compelling, poignant, true-to-life portrait of a poor family's struggles. Bird grapples with her family's terrible poverty and circumstances, including the abuse she endures at the hands of her mother and the untimely suicide of her father. As she searches to understand her corner of the world and her place in it, she finds a type of salvati ...more
Shari Jones
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at a clearance sale without reading the synopsis or first few pages like usual. The title and cover intrigued me enough so I added it to my stack of new finds with thoughts of eventually getting to it.

Little did I know when I picked it up again to finally read it, I wouldn't be able to put it down. I read it in two sittings but could have easily gobbled it up in just one. I was engulfed in the story right from the start. The author does an amazing job or giving the right a
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
My Original Notes (1997):

This was a difficult book to read. I wanted to quit so many times, but hung in there. It wasn't that it was boring, but that it was full of so much physical and verbal abuse. I was sickened by Glorie Marie's abuse on her two daughters. Horrible, cruel brutality, both physically and mentally. Yet Bird proved to be a strong girl with the love and kindness bestowed on her by her new friend, Miss Zora. I was so glad the book had a happy ending. I kept hoping it would.

My Curr
Barbara Nutting
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To quote the book, "life sure is a mysterious journey". And this novel was some journey - a depraved, sad story of booze and beatings the likes of which I can't even imagine. It was so well written I couldn't put it down. I hope it wasn't autobiographical as it was pretty graphic. Little "Bird" reminded me of Scout without the love of Atticus Finch - what different lives they led. I seem to give this author either five stars or one star - this was definitely a big winner.
P.S. Just googled Connie
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, compelling story of a girl, Bird, whose thoughts delighted me throughout. She had such a marvelous imagination. When she lost the ability to speak, or her conversations with God! Her family is the core of the story, with all its disfunction and pain, and sometimes warmth. At times the other characters outside of the family seemed simplified to be too nice (nearly all conflict happens within the family, and essentially all outsiders end up being kind to Bird and the family) but the sto ...more
Diane Eskridge
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I finished the book. I get the depth and importance of the story, I also loved the characters. I followed this story line all the way to the end and felt just a little disappointed. Based on the GR ratings maybe I was expecting a little more, or perhaps it was because I was not able to personally relate to the characters circumstances. I was left just a little like, "oh okay". I think I would have been less disappointed if the story line had carried us a little further. I pray that all children ...more
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