"Paint the Bird" by Georgeann Packard

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Author Georgeann Packard places a quote at the beginning of Paint the Bird that plainly consigns faith to the realm of illusion. And she goes on to describe the crisis of faith suffered by her main character Sarah, who as a practicing minister, has a struggle indeed. The resulting conflict brings a sharp focus on family, loss, weakness, and redemption.

 People and events in Paint the Bird spring before us, like birds spooked into flight. Sarah Obadias, a veteran preacher in an “inclusive, nurturing” church, finds herself in the company of a compelling stranger and gives in to his sensual attractions. She also falls into his life, trapped almost, and his life is rather wretched at the moment. Tall, well aged, with a generous mane of white hair, this man is named Abraham, which is appropriate for this Sarah, and for this book, which purposely echoes Bible narratives. Abraham’s son (named Yago, not Isaac) has died and the events of the novel revolve around the effects of this untimely demise.

The language in this book is vivid and urgent, as are
the issues the characters must face. Ms. Packard engages us fully in this compact but eventful story. She handles the harrowing journeys of her main characters very surely, and strikes a particularly elegant chord with Abraham, the bereft father and artist who strives to understand and perhaps preserve his lost son. This plaintive, elegiac novel tugs at our hearts as it pushes us to come to grips with its human lesson of hope and charity, even if faith comes up a little worse for wear. A very gratifying follow-up to Fall Asleep Forgetting, as Ms. Packard continues to make good on her considerable promise.
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