Looking After Pigeon

looking after pigeon

Title: Looking After Pigeon
Author: Maud Carol Markson
Published:  July, 2009
Number of pages: 192
Rating: 4.8 out of 5

…I realized for the first time that no matter what the judge said, no matter how much we all might like it differently, our parents, our loved ones, are not ours forever, and we are not theirs to keep. There is always a chink in the armor, and unraveling of the ties, we are always at last on our own. As a result, I find it difficult to believe in marriage, to make that commitment towards a future that I know so little about, to trust in a person I can know only remotely, to trust that person will care for me, look after me. It is not that I don’t believe in love-I do, I do. But, I know that if you were to ask me, I would tell you-I am just looking after Pigeon. (p. 180)

I don’t know if it’s a fear common among children to dread being left, or just one particular to me. But, it was a very real fear in my life,  and it will sometimes surface again if I’m not careful to push it down. Because I don’t think we can ever truly discard childhood wounds once they’ve been inflicted.

Such is the case with Pigeon. At the age of five her father leaves their family, and although her voice is very mature, it’s clear to see the pain she is suffering at his absence. Pigeon, with her older sister, Dove, and older brother, Robin, move into her Uncle Edward’s house on the Jersey boardwalk; it is where their mother takes them when she must abandon the apartment the family had lived in.

The smells of Coney dogs, salt water taffy, coconut suntan oil, and the sounds of crowds on the beach do little to assuage Pigeon’s feelings. She is certain that someday her father will return. And her hope, unrealistic but undaunted, made me hope just as hard that he would.

I cried while reading this book. I’m crying now.

At first, I was annoyed that Pigeon’s character is mature beyond her years. She seems to be feeling and thinking things that are clearly through an adult’s eyes. But, she is telling the story in retrospect, and her insights about family, life and love moved me deeply.

I’m thinking about the quote at the top of this post…when abandoned as a child, we must make the decision whether we can trust again. It seems safest to barricade ourselves behind walls of non-commitment. But, I disagree with Pigeon. I don’t believe that by staying single we stay safe. Safety is not possible in this word, alone or linked with a soul mate.

While Pigeon is looking back on the summer she experienced at age 5, and taking us right back to it with her, I found myself revisiting similar age old issues. Control. Trust. Disappointment. Imperfections from those we love. They are all a part of growing up; a part of learning how to take care of others as we look after ourselves.

Other TLC tour stops include:

Monday, October 19th – A Sea of Books
Tuesday, October 27th – Literate Housewife
Thursday, October 29th – Steph and Tony Investigate
Monday, November 2nd – A Reader’s Journal
Tuesday, November 3rd – The Scholastic Scribe
Wednesday, November 4th – Raging Bibliomania
Monday, November 9th – Clever Girl Goes Blog
Tuesday, November 10th – Book Club Classics
Thursday, November 11th – Caribousmom

32 thoughts on “Looking After Pigeon

  1. When I first saw this title I wanted to read it but I was worried that Pigeon would be too mature. I have a child about that age. I have a tendency to compare my child with a protagonist of a similar age. Thanks for the honest review. I'll consider reading it.

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  2. I think it is a huge phobia of many children, just not too many of them actually experience true desertion. Talk about something that would scar you for life. Like my childhood fear of tornadoes…imagine how messed up I would be if I actually lived through one. My daughter has a phobia of being forgotten or left. If I am one minute late to pick her up from school, she completely panics. No amount of reassuring does her any good.

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  3. You had me at, "I cried while reading this book. I’m crying now." There's something so amazing about a writer's ability to generate that kind of emotion. Fantastic review, Bellezza! You gave me goosebumps!

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  4. I heard a woman on the radio the other day who is 90. She said there is no safe place and that God is beside us. This is a woman whose daughter died at a very young age.

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  5. Thank you for the wonderful review, and for your very honest reaction to my book (and to Pigeon). I, of course, like to believe that we all have someone to take care of us… that we can, indeed, trust people. I certainly do! But Pigeon was scarred by this summer– her father teased her with his postcards, and then he didn't come back. And of course, later on he dies– the ultimate departure.And you also bring up something that many readers have noted– how could a 5 year old know all this?! But Pigeon is an adult when she writes down her memories of this summer. It is truly only what she remembers. If Dove or Robin had written about that particular summer, it would be a very different book.Again, thank you so much. I love to hear from readers!

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  6. Jackie,I hope you will read my novel, Looking After Pigeon. And please let me know what you think once you've read it. Perhaps it will make you cry at points, but I hope it will also make you laugh…. childhood (and life) is like that.Maud

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  7. Dear Nan,Maybe no place is truly safe…. but I like to believe that regardless of what happens the people who love me (and who I love) will be there.But I did not experience the loss of a parent at a young age, nor the loss of a child (which I think would be far worse). I can trust.Maud

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  8. Dear Bermudaonion,I would think with such a "name," you would cry easily and often. I know I cry easily.Please write me after you've read the book; I will look forward to hearing what you think.Maud

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  9. Maud, it was knowing that Pigeon wrote these memories as an adult that saved me from "scorning" her opinion as too mature. I'd hope this small paragraph in my post"At first, I was annoyed that Pigeon’s character is mature beyond her years. She seems to be feeling and thinking things that are clearly through an adult’s eyes. But, she is telling the story in retrospect, and her insights about family, life and love moved me deeply."clued readers into that important fact.You are really able to capture the feelings of family, or of children left behind, so clearly. I wonder, did you have a personal experience of this in your own life? Of course, I understand if you choose not to answer that impertinent question.

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  10. Belezza,In response to your note– you definitely "got" the book. And you made it very clear that you saw that the narrator was really an adult looking back on this pivotal summer in her life.As for your other question– it is fortunately not based on my own life. That is what I love about fiction– delving into other lives, other adventures, not at all like my own. Of course the emotions are mine– the emotions that all the characters go through. And again, thank you for your wonderful review, and for helping people discover new books through your blog. What a great service for all us readers out here.Maud

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  11. Maud, thanks for answering my question. I'm so relieved that you didn't suffer it personally, as the wealth of emotions which you were able to convey caused me to think that you had. Bits of this story have touched my life personally, especially with the loss my son suffered at his father's death when he was only six. That, however, is not as painful as being intentionally left. Your work is quite poignant to me for many personal reasons of my own.

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  12. I stopped at this ~ "we are always at last on our own". Unmarried now, without brothers or sisters, with only an aunt and three cousins left in my family, I watch my mother, now 91, preparing for her own departure and feel that sudden, child-like panic more sharply than ever I thought I would.And yet it cuts both ways. My mother feels her own kind of panic when she begins to imagine horrors taking me from her. As she says, smiling but serious, "If anything happened to you, who would take care of me?"Abandonment, isolation and desolation – terrors felt by the child still living inside each of us.

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  13. Sandy,I feel so for your daughter. My own mother was always late picking me up from anything…. I would stand at the corner waiting for what seemed like hours all by myself. As a result, I am early to everything!Of course, we are all scarred by something. Fortunately, I don't have to bear the kinds of scars my character Pigeon had to.I look forward to hearing your comments after you've read the book.Maud

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  14. Shoreacres,You are so right. Although I did not suffer through the kind of abandonment that Pigeon suffers through, we all feel the scars of our childhood.I feel like I have tried to make my son's life as happy as I possibly could (and to avoid all the mistakes I felt my own parents made), but my son inevitably has his own battle scars of his childhood. Like you, my son is an only child and I think that brings its own trials. You don't have a sibbling with shared memories and you don't have someone to be there with you when your parent dies. I come from a very large family so when my mother died this year we were all together.I wish you well.Maud

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  15. Bellezza,How difficult for your son. My father lost his own father when he was two and then his mother when he was eight, and I believe he suffers abandonment issues today and he is 80 years old. Still afraid of being left alone, still afraid that there is no one to care for him.I can't tell you enough how wonderful this is for me– to hear from you and other readers who were touched by my book. I feel I get to know you all a little bit– it was Pigeon who brought us together.Maud

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  16. Shoreacres, your comment touches me to the core. I, too, feel the same " sudden, child-like panic more sharply than ever I thought I would". For me, abandonment is the ultimate terror; I wonder for how many others this is true. I must say, though, I am comforted by your words that I am not alone in this.

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  17. Sounds like a very touching tale. Such a heartfelt review, Bellezza.In a way, I can say that I've experienced the feeling of being left when I was a little kid. There was a time when I got lost inside a big bookstore. Against the warning of my mom, I ran around the place and soon I found myself alone and couldn't find my parents. I was on the verge of crying when a sales attendant found me and she was about to have my name paged over the mall's speakers. Good thing my parents soon appeared and there was simply no words to describe my relief. Right then and there, even with my very young mind, I understood how scary it is to be left alone.About what you said, yes I agree that barricading one's self is not the solution to escape or avoid the pain that the past has brought. It's always best to carry on with life and look toward something brighter, in my opinion.

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  18. Being abandoned is such a common fear– it speaks to the "child" in all of us. But I agree — we cannot escape or avoid pain by separating ourselves away from other humans just to avoid being left behind. Life is just too splendid for this! And the messy and amazing relationships we form are so worth it!Maud

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  19. Wonderful review of this book – which I just finished and will posting about as part of the tour tomorrow. I too found this book sad…but also with some hope at the end. Markson tackles a difficult subject with grace and empathy, doesn't she?

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  20. Wendy,I am so glad you found the book hopeful. I meant it be very hopeful! Pigeon on the school bus is a resiliant girl who has already found a friend and is looking forward to her first day at school. And Pigeon as an adult in the Afterward is a person who has finally decided that although she must look after herself, she can also let down her guard and allow others (particularly this man she is with) into her heart, into her life. She can trust him to care for her and not disappear. And that is hopeful, indeed.Although there is great sadness in my book (and in life in general), I am an optimistic person and I always hope that comes through in what I write. It is obvious that you saw that optimism.Thanks for being such a wonderful reader. I look forward to reading your review tomorrow!Maud

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