The reader in me wants to rave about a really good story. The writer in me wants to dissect it for all it’s worth. After all, a story so deftly and eloquently told begs praise and dissection.
The novel’s title is Kiss of the Jewel Bird. Its author is Dale Cramer. As a matter of full disclosure, I will admit that Dale used to be a member of the Compuserve Books & Writers Forum to which I belong, but I can not recall reading his work there. I recently happened upon Dale at another forum I joined, Section Sixx. I have read nothing of his work on that forum either. There. I’m free to rave now.
The opening scene of Kiss of the Jewel Bird is a writer’s dream. In less talented hands, it could have been disastrous as the story opens with backstory—a recounting of how reclusive, Nobel Prize winning novelist Fletcher Carlyle slaughtered a chicken on the hood of a BMW in the middle land of Central Park West.
Memorable image, no?
What? Oh, the chicken? Yes, well, wait a moment.
Carlyle was unconscious when wheeled into Weatherhaven Institute, an exclusive mental health care facility on a spit of land called Shelter Island cached between the North and South Forks of eastern Long Island, where he was ultimately delivered into the hands of Dr. Anton Pohl, psychologist.
Yes. Yes. The chicken.
Turns out the chicken is just one of the improbable, hopeful, wonderful, and exasperating things that Carlyle has experienced and been touched by, and yet the chicken is at the heart of this wonderfully inventive, singularly humorous and poignant tale, for Nobel Laureate Carlyle is a fraud. Born Richard (Dickie) Frye in Squalor, Georgia, the mail carrier dreamed of being a storyteller, but hadn’t the talent. The chicken, however, did, having been born a Sumer courtier 2,000 years ago and cursed to a variation of a ‘Groundhog Day’ type existence until his crime is forgiven.
The improbable cast of delicious characters includes Anton Pohl, a man with a phobic fear of water (yes, he daily commutes by ferry to work) whose other inhibition has kept him from the woman he loves, Emma Lansing, for his entire adulthood, through her marriages, her depression, and her bout with cancer.
What? The chicken? Yes, yes. His name is Crito.
As I was saying… each character’s voice is unique and so skillfully rendered that you can hear their patterns of speech as you read the dialog, from Dickie Frye’s country-boy drawl, to Pohl’s careful and correct patter, to Emma’s crisp, honest and brave dialog.
In the end, it’s a circular story, where Frye helps Pohl overcome his fears while Pohl helps Frye by doing what psychologists do best—listening, but where Emma solves the 2,000 year old mystery.
What is it? Unh-unh. Not telling. Kiss of the Jewel Bird is a page turner, and more than that, it’s a story that will touch all your emotions and make you believe there’s still magic in the world.
I’ve said too much, and yet not enough. Do yourself a huge favor and read Kiss of the Jewel Bird. I know you’ll agree.