‘The Girl Who Raised Pigeons’ by Edward P. Jones

The Girl Who Raised Pigeons by Edward P. Jones, 1992

The magic trick:

Draping the story in a heavy quilt of sweetness and sadness and meaning

We’re doing a week of stories from Edward P. Jones’s amazing Lost In The City collection. “It’s a Dubliners for Washington, D.C.” talk isn’t that insane, which is saying a lot. So get your copy ready, it’s going to be a great week.

We start with “The Girl Who Raised Pigeons.” It’s a sweet, sad, exceptionally heavy story. The heavy quality shows itself from the start. Our title character grows up the only child of a single father, her mother having died as she was being born. Everything she does, and everything that happens in the story feels weighted then with meaning and emotion. And so when as a child she begins to care for pigeons on the roof of her home, it isn’t simply a hobby; it fills her world. It fills the story’s world.

The whole story is like that, and that can make for an exhausting reading experience. But when the text is so compact (only 25 pages), and the writing is this good, the heaviness is less exhausting than it is totally engrossing.

And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.

The selection:

What Betsy Ann Morgan and her father Robert did agree on was that the pigeons began with the barber Miles Patterson. Her father had known Miles long before the girl was born, before the thought to marry her mother had even crossed his mind. The barber lived in a gingerbread-brown house with his old parents only a few doors down from the barbershop he owned on the corner of 3rd and L streets, Northwest. On some Sundays, after Betsy Ann had come back from church with Miss Jenny, Robert, as he believed his wife would have done, would take his daughter out to visit with relatives and friends in the neighborhoods just beyond Myrtle Street, Northeast, where father and daughter lived.

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