Pamela Dorman, Jun 5, 2012, $26.95
Sisters Clare and Anne Burke were close growing up in Chelsea. When Anne married Danish glass blower Frederik Rasmussen, he isolated her from her family and friends. In 1993 needing to see her beloved sibling, Clare visited Anne at her remote country home where her sibling, her niece Grit and her nephew Gilly welcome her. Seeing bruises on her sister, Clare convinced the trio to leave with her, but Frederik interceded. When he chokes Anne, Clare hammers him with a burnt log. The police arrested Clare who served two years in prison for assault due to Anne’s testimony defending her spouse.
Almost two decades later in Manhattan, Clare, who has become an urban ornithologist, remains hurt by her sister’s betrayal though she prays somehow they reconcile but has no hope as Frederik forbids Anne contact with her family. Twentyish Grit arrives at Clare’s residence seeking to belong, feelings she has not received from her parents who live in Copenhagen. She tells her aunt her father physically and emotionally abuses her mom and her, and her brother died in a bog. As they bond, both hope Anne will one day join them.
This is an exciting family drama that focuses on the extended impact on other loved ones by a codependent relationship between an abuser and his victim. The key cast is solid including the manipulative violent Frederik though Grit’s resiliency and Paul’s dedication feel wrong. The depiction of New York as an urban rainforest with a vast variety of aviary is brilliantly captured as two female relatives bond while hoping to reconcile with the woman who is the one degree that connects them.