There are many reasons I read books. Sometimes it’s for entertainment and diversion. Sometimes it is to explore the future or come up with a vision of a life beyond ours on earth. Those are the kinds of books that I want to read, but there are also books you and I should read. Books that help you grapple with hard realities and gain a better understanding of someone else’s viewpoint. D. Bryant Simmons’ book How to Knock a Bravebird from Her Perch is definitely a book that should be read. It takes the reader through the life of Pecan and her relationship with an abusive husband, as well as both parents’ relationships with their five children.
It is a story that is difficult to read at times, but you can’t turn away without feeling ashamed that Pecan has the strength to move on to the next chapter, but you don’t. The title may be How to Knock a Bravebird from Her Perch, but it really is a story of getting back up again.
Not offensive to women = 1 pts*
The book portrays in detail the domestic abuse Pecan suffers from her husband, but it doesn’t ask “why doesn’t she just run away?” We know exactly why she doesn’t run away, and we agonize with her when the rest of her world can’t understand her decisions either. Simmons’ does a fantastic job of showing all facets of domestic abuse, and just how insidious some of them are. In addition, she reveals how the political and judicial system fail to provide victims of domestic abuse, especially women of color, with any kind of relief. In fact, they often make the situation even worse.
TRIGGER WARNING: the book does have multiple rape scenes.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts & Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
The entire story is from Pecan’s point of view, and she has numerous conversations with female co-workers, female relatives, and her own daughters. It is worth noting that the book also passes the people of color version of the Bechdel test multiple times, which requires that two named people of color have a conversation about something other than a white character.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
The intimacy I feel with Pecan as a fully fleshed-out character is a testament to Simmons’ skill as an author. She has a full understanding of the psychology involved with domestic abuse, and she conveyed those concepts in a way that is digestible to readers.
I hesitate to use the word “entertaining” because I feel it undermines the literary strength of this work. I think How to Knock a Bravebird from Her Perch is beyond entertaining. It is a riveting story that fosters complete empathy for Pecan, and by proxy allows us to experience all the injustices that character has faced. I yearned for her to succeed, and I worried about her children like some distant relative. I fully plan on reading the rest of the books in this series, because I honestly need to make sure everything ends up all right in the end.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
I don’t know that I can add much to this section that I haven’t already touched upon. It is clear to me that this book earned its 5 points for going above and beyond its peers. Simmons’ fully deserved the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award and the 2014 Gold Medal Award (Multicultural Fiction) she received for this novel, and I won’t be surprised to learn of future awards.
In addition to being a great writer, she has a very robust website dedicated to this book series, which is called The Morrow Girls. As for myself, I have already signed up for her free fan club and purchased the sequel entitled Blue Sky. Why don’t you?
OTHER RECOMMENDED DRAMAS: The Girl on the Train
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.