Thursday, May 14, 2009

Before Women Had Wings - Connie May Fowler


Are you sick of hearing about Connie May Fowler yet? I hope not, because I'm not close to being done with her. My latest experience with Connie is the book that put her on the literary map. Before Women Had Wings, a semi-autobiographical novel, apparently made a noticeable splash early in Connie's career, so much that the story was made into a TV movie for Oprah (please don't hold it against her!). I have chosen this book for both my TBR Reading Challenge, and my Southern Reading Challenge. In case you are new to the blog, you may reflect, if you wish, on my earlier ravings with Connie's debut novel Sugar Cage, and my personal favorite so far, Remembering Blue.

The story revolves around Avocet Jackson, nicknamed Bird. She lives in poverty in rural Florida with her older sister Pheobe and her parents. She is a spirited nine year old who loves animals, and loves Jesus. She prays to him often, hoping that He will help her parents stop drinking, her dad from beating up her mom, and her mom from beating up the kids. Her dad is known for his boyish charm and wasted country singer potential, and her mom is a dark-haired beauty with a hair-trigger temper. When Bird's father kills himself, her mom moves the three of them to Tampa, where things progress from bad to worse. Aggravated by drink and loss, Bird's mother descends into the depths of hell, putting herself and her daughters in mortal danger.

Bird has lost her childlike innocence. Jesus has failed her. She feels completely responsible for her father's death and for the beatings she receives. Until she meets Miss Zora, a gentle, wise soul that lives around the corner. Miss Zora is a spiritual healer who provides friendship, guidance and a warm embrace to Bird when she needs it the most.

I know it sounds dire. At times it is painful to read about the abuses suffered by these children. It is not for the faint of heart. But there is hope in the form of a little old black lady that pulls the reader out of the muck, with references to birds, wings and angels throughout. What makes this book about domestic abuse any different than the thousands of others out there? Because Connie May Fowler is a brilliant writer. How else can you explain reading about such atrocities and still not being able to put the book down? Adding more distance between this novel and the competition is the knowledge that this story is coming from a very personal and painful place in Connie's heart. I know that she spends a great deal of time touring through the US, speaking to groups about domestic abuse and donating her time to help those in dead end situations. Since penning "Before Women Had Wings", she has written her own memoir, titled "When Katie Wakes", about her harrowing experiences with domestic abuse, and the unconditional love of her dog Kateland. This will be one of my next purchases on my Kindle. Stay tuned!

4 out of 5 stars

11 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I received my copy of Sugar Cane, via Bookmooch, from Florida, last week - I hope your ravings are justified, as I'm going to find out very soon!! lol!!

Beth F said...

Super review and Fowler is definitely on my wish list -- because of you!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Very compelling, Sandy....I'm thinking I might put this one on the Kindle!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - I sure do hope you like it! (BTW I hope you got the right one...Fowler's book is called Sugar Cage). I guess we all have different likes and dislikes, but this author is extra special!

Beth - I hope you read something of Fowler's some day. I'm totally not done with her. I think she has a few more that I need to pursue!

Michele - I think you can get all her stuff on Kindle. Her autobiography is high on my list!

farmlanebooks said...

You worried me for a moment there - I had to go and check! I was convinced it was called Sugar Cane, but I do have Sugar Cage - panic over!!!

Anna said...

This one sounds good, though it probably will be hard to read. I'll keep this author in mind once I catch up in my reading. Thanks for the review!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

wow, sounds like a good read and I just started getting into these southern fiction books...thanks for the review.

Iliana said...

Ok, I must give Connie May Fowler a try. I get the feeling I must be mistaking her with another author. Anyway, yes the book sounds like a bit of a downer but stories like these can really be moving and heartfelt.

Wonderful review, Sandy!

Literary Feline said...

Do keep Connie May Fowler talk coming! This sounds like a wonderful book, Sandy. This sounds like something I would like. Thanks for the great review.

Melody said...

I don't think I've read anything by this author. Will have to check out her books!

Anonymous said...

All i want to know is,is their a second book to Sugar Cane? i would love to know if or how Emory made it back to his sweet Soleil.