Kim Church has created an unforgettable and gripping tale about a young woman’s passage to adulthood in a small town in North Carolina in her excellent debut novel, Byrd. There are books we like to read because they provide a window to a world wholly unfamiliar, but there are others like Byrd that give insight into our own lives: our hopes and dreams, what we’ve done right, opportunities missed. The simple fact is few of us live the lives we dreamed of when we were young, or as the young heroine Addie says, “I have learned it is possible to become satisfied with your life too soon.” She falls in love early, not realizing it will not last forever. Throughout the book Addie is looking to recapture the intensity of that first love, “the deep down panic of real love, the jolt she felt with Roland.” The intensity of first love compared to the pleasures of mature love is one of the abiding themes of the book. How do these forms of love compare? Which is real, which lasts—and can the earlier intensity ever be recaptured?
Years after their original love affair, Addie and Roland fumble their way back toward each other. One of their meetings results in a pregnancy that Addie will keep secret, something she regrets deeply. The book is interspersed with poignant unsent letters from Addie to the child she gave up, whom she calls Byrd. Will Roland, Addie and Byrd reunite?
The reader comes to know the characters in Byrd extraordinarily well. Through this knowledge, we come to care deeply about their successes and failures.