School Library Journal June 2009
The narrator of this novel, seemingly set in the early 1970s, is five-year-old Pigeon. She observes her family’s changes during the summer after her parents’; separation and during which her 16-year-old sister becomes pregnant. Pigeon is bright and remarkably self-sufficient, and as she describes her mother’s child-rearing methods, her self-reliance is credible enough to make the story compelling. Her mother takes her; her sister, Dove; and their 10-year-old brother, Robin, to the Jersey Shore, where they move in with the children’s uncle. The mother goes to work in a movie house, Dove takes a job at a diner, Robin discovers a deep commitment to fortune-telling, and Pigeon is often left to her own devices from morning until evening. She longs for her father, can’t interpret her uncle’s relationships with other men, yearns for company during the day, and offers her sister support while longing for some in return. Robin seems to be more alert to Pigeon’s needs than anyone else except for their uncle, who is caring but ineffectual as a substitute parent. Pigeon and Robin struggle to understand the changes in their mother when she takes up with a new man and develops a near obsession with a tent revivalist. Markson sews a neat tapestry of family flaws as observed by the not-yet-judgmental Pigeon, making this a sound and interesting choice.
— Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia