Bird is twenty-five. She lives at home with her mother and her five year old son Angus. She's been saving money from her job cleaning houses so that she and Angus can move out and get their own apartment and she's almost there. She's also only 13 days from the end of her long probation for writing bad checks. If she can just make it through the next 13 days without a misstep, she'll be free to create the life she wants for Angus. But that isn't the way Bird's life works, of course. Life for her has been anything but easy. When she goes to church to retrieve her mother's sweater (a set-up since Bird hasn't believed in God or darkened a church door almost since her father's death), she stumbles across an old co-worker hiding out in the disused choir loft. James is injured and pointing a gun at her, having escaped the police, who were taking him in for beating a man almost to death in a bar fight. The James that Bird remembers wasn't a criminal; he was a quiet and kind man who once did something for her that has left her in his debt. Now she has to decide if she can risk the life she's assembling for Angus to help James stay hidden and maybe even escape.
Bird has made wrong decision after wrong decision in her life. She lost her father when she was young and he was the parent she looked to for moral guidance and unconditional love. When he died, so did her faith in a good God and in religion overall. Her relationship with her mother has long been contentious and hard so moving back in with her after her conviction hasn't been easy and the fact that they are often at odds over what is right for Angus makes the situation even harder. As a character, Bird is both frustrating and redeemable by turns. Seeing her grapple with what is right and wanting to be the best possible mom to Angus is wonderful but the reader will also want to shout at her for the hurtful things she can say or do, especially towards her mother, and for the wrongheaded decisions she makes when she's describing the past where she first met James.
The novel is told on two different timelines, Bird's present and Bird's past, and both are narrated by Bird herself. Both timelines move forward and the present timeline doesn't reveal major plot points from the past, allowing both timelines to have surprising twists to them. A couple of the revelations are a tad predictable but there are others that are not at all expected and help keep the reader engaged in Bird's story and where she is ultimately going to end up. Better yet, where she will end up is not obvious until the end of the novel, although it is fitting with her character and the story. Galante is careful not offer any easy answers to the myriad of deep and thoughtful questions Bird faces and she shows the multiple layers that make up decisions and reactions. This is a novel about forgiveness, institutional and personal. It's about self-sabotage and belief in oneself and the hard work of family. At its core it's a goodhearted novel that will leave the reader pulling for Bird and Angus and all of the people in her life who have believed in her, even, or especially, when she might not have deserved it.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book to review.