Chasing Birds by Cristina Henríquez, 2006
The magic trick:
Giving the reader the feeling that some dramatic action or event is waiting around every corner
We’re off to Delaware this week, beginning with Wilmington’s own Cristina Henríquez.
“Chasing Birds” takes us far away to Panama, though, where a couple is taking a vacation. The wife hopes for a rekindling of romance. The husband is comically self-absorbed with his own ornithological interests.
Bad things – or at least drastic actions – seem waiting around every corner for most of the story. It’s raining. The terrain is extreme. There is a feeling of cultural and literal isolation.
But every time something dramatic feels imminent, normalcy reigns on.
Until it doesn’t.
The ending shocks the reader with its suddenness, but it’s also a release of sorts.
And that’s quite a trick on Henríquez’s part.
The city had leapt up and taken June by surprise. She was expecting something smaller, more rural. But after they rented the car and started driving, she saw a huge, bustling capital, poor but inescapably vibrant. She peered out the tinted windows of their small car, her purse tight between her knees, as Harvey drove and fiddled with the air-conditioning. There were more billboards than she had seen anywhere, clumped along the side of the road, many of them blank, many of them peeling. Banks and hotels and apartment high-rises rose up around them, everything built into hills of untended, tall, wispy grass freckled with tiny flowers.
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