Friday, April 18, 2014

The Longing that Feeds Kim Church's "Byrd"

“Desire is not simple,” writes the poet Anne Carson.
Neither is longing, that dark river that runs through the heart of Kim Church’s first novel, “Byrd.”
Kim Church
We’ve already reviewed “Byrd,” but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the longing that fed that novel. “Byrd” is about 32-year-old Addie, who owns a bookstore in Raleigh, and, after a failed abortion, decides to surrender her baby for adoption. A baby she writes letters to for years, letters she’ll never send. Letters that will tear at your very fiber.
“Dear – What to call you? Almost-child? One who has taken root in me and won’t let go? One who might have been mine? Could still be, if I were brave enough?
“But I’m not. I can’t be the mother you deserve. I know this in the way other women know they’re meant to be mothers. I know from everything I have ever been or dreamed or wanted.”
The novel began as notes in 1998 and is not based on Church’s own experience
So I decided to ask Church, who grew up in Lexington, and lives in Raleigh where she works part-time as a lawyer: Where does all this longing spring from?
“Addie’s story is one of learning to accept and live with her own hard choices,” Church writes me. “For her, this is a slow, often painful process – much like the process of writing a novel, which involves learning to commit to choices and let go of fear, doubt, perfectionism, all those things that get in the way. It took me a long time to figure out and accept who I am as a writer.”
Church writes that she identified with Addie in other ways, too, which she says may get closer to the heart of my question.
“I’ve never been in Addie’s situation,” she says, “or had to confront her choices, but I do know how it feels to struggle with the decision over motherhood. Addie’s doubts and fears and what-ifs have personal resonance for me.”
Church told the News & Observer’s Andrea Weigl that the idea came from a dinner conversation years ago. One of the dinner guests, writes Weigl, was a man who casually mentioned that he had fathered a child who had been given up for adoption.
Weigl says Church recalled: “My thought was, ‘What about the mother?’ I felt sure this experience was not casual dinner conversation for her.’”
Church will read and sign copies of “Byrd” at 2 p.m., May 3, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.