by W.P. Kinsella
In The Bird Factory, Luke Gray is a happy man. He owns a small business that manufactures mobile birds. He has a couple of eccentric employees. His marriage is stable. He has survived an unhappy childhood; his father was a failed documentary filmmaker with an eye for the ladies, and his mother, each time she caught his father philandering, would abandon Luke and his father for months at a time.
Suddenly Luke's wife, Julie, decides she wants a baby. He reluctantly agrees, but nothing happens. As a concession to Julie, they attend a fertility clinic, which leads to a number of humiliating experiences that leave Luke feeling emasculated and depressed, and he wonders whether his marriage is worth all the bother. Luke's adventures at the fertility clinic are often laugh-out-loud funny. There are touches of Anne Tyler here as the lives of both sets of in-laws, Luke's employees, and Julie's Down's Syndrome brother, who is challenged, but certainly not stupid, all intertwine.
I won't go into the unique solution to their fertility problem, which will bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened reader. The writing is straightforward, clear and most enjoyable to read.
There are varied emotional complexities involving Luke and Julie's families and the employees of the bird factory. There is an ultimate sweetness that tugs at the heart strings as each character decides what they will or won't do in the name of love. A memorable debut, with an equally memorable dust jacket.