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Winter Birds - Jim Grimsley This book is heartbreakingly beautiful. I started this morning and absolutely could not put it down (granted it short at 209 pages it seems like it is just a bit longer than novella status).

The second person point of view took me a chapter or so to get used to reading, but once I was into it seemed the only way to tell this story. There is absolutely nothing new here...abuse, alcohol, and poverty go hand in hand and certainly the story that Grimsley tells (while sad) is nothing especially ground breaking. However, the way that he tells it is amazing. In part because of the use of second person. As Danny tells himself the story of his own childhood, he is reminding himself of things that he would rather not know; things that he would rather not remember. Through the second person, he is able to view these things as they happen to "you", not necessarily to himself.

Grimsley is a master at character development and while the whole story takes place on what is simply a very bad Thanksgiving in the Crell household, he is able to give us back ground on lots of people and places that influence the lives of the Crells. He paints a very vivid picture of their slide from Bobjay's job as foreman on Luther's farm to the current Circle house. We are able to emphathise with the children (and even Bobjay at times) as we see the inevitable pattern of bad event followed by over indulgence followed by drunken abuse followed by repentance.

I am usually hypercritical and was amazed that not only was this very old and simple tale so compelling, but that Grimsley managed to top himself with Bobjay's final act of cruelty towards Danny and Ellen.

Beautifully done.