Part psychological mystery and part love story, Tracy Guzeman’s captivating debut novel follows the journeys of several people affected—and nearly ruined—by the brilliant painter Thomas Bayber.

Traveling back and forth from the 1960s to the early 2000s, the novel begins in 1963 with the story of two teen sisters, Alice and Natalie Kessler. Once extremely close, the sisters have abruptly drifted apart. That summer, their vacation rental cabin is near to that of Thomas Bayber, a precocious and talented young painter. Alice, an awkward 14-year-old ornithologist in training, falls under Bayber’s charismatic spell, while her older—and gorgeous—sister, Natalie, refuses to yield to his charm. Their interactions with Bayber over the course of that summer set off a chain of events that alters the sisters’ lives forever.

Fast-forward 44 years, to 2007. Bayber is a reclusive alcoholic who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush for nearly 20 years. He reaches out to his biographer and close friend, art history professor and recent widower Dennis Finch. After unveiling a never-before-seen painting of a young Bayber, Alice and Natalie, he requests that Finch team up with the eccentric, and recently ruined, art authenticator Stephen Jameson to sell it. But before the odd pair can cash in on the commission, they must locate the Kessler sisters, who seem to have dropped off the map.

Will Finch and Jameson discover the secret behind Bayber’s evocative painting? Will Natalie ever explain to Alice why their relationship fell apart? And why is Bayber so intent on including Jameson in his search for the Kesslers? Readers (and art lovers) will find themselves plowing through the novel so that they can get to the bottom of these mysteries. The Gravity of Birds is a seductive novel, out to prove that a powerful secret will ultimately bury its keeper unless the truth—like a bird—is set free.

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