Maud Carol Markson's Looking After Pigeon is a cmpassionate coming of age story that deftly clurs the line between fiction and memoir.
Throughout the novel, Markson lovingly paints Pigeon as a young girl who wants nothing more than to make her family happy even as life complicates her efforts. Hre uncle leads a secretive double life. Her mother is ecoming involved in something resembling a cult. Her sister's romantic liaisons are leading to trouble. Her brother aspires to be a boardwalk fortune teller. As all of the novel's plots unfold, however, Markson drops in minor inconsistencies and anachronisms, thus forcing the reader to wonder about Pigeon's reliability as a narrator. Why, for example, does she speak so eloquently for a five year old? Why does she quote from the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden" while insissting that she's listening to Yellow Submarine? And were Super-Size meals available form McDonald's at the time the events describe in the novel took place? The answer, ultimately, is that none of this matters, for Pigeon is an adult who is struggling to reconstruct her childhood, and if memory fails her at times, her gift for understanding the "heart-truth" of the matter (to borrow a phrase from Tim O'Brien) is what lends credence to her tale.
Along these lines, Markson's gift for characterization is obvious throughout the novel. Case in point, a description of her sister, Dove, who is "most herself when in front of other people as if she were a television set, filled with entertainment and even glamour, that was made to wait blank and empty until someone came to turn her on." Ultimately, it's Markson's facility with creating strong characters that makes Pigeon's world so believable even if the minutia of this world is not always in line with historical fact. It's the world as she remembers it, a world of colorful charracters and larger than life scenarios. As a result, Looking After Pigeon is an engaging read with hints of Augusten Burroughs, Harper Lee, Elizabeth Mosier, and Heather Sellerrs. A great book for summer.