TLC Tours Presents: Looking After Pigeon

Looking After Pigeon by Maud Carol Markson

Release date: 2009 / 190 pages

Synopsis (from front cover): One spring day in New York City, five-year-old Pigeon’s father disappears, leaving her to face a new and bewildering life with her mother and older siblings in an uncle’s house on the Jersey shore.

First line: “Memory is an odd thing.”

Review:  I’m at a bit of a loss with this review!  I did enjoy it –very much — and felt as if I knew Pigeon quite well throughout the novel.  I even missed her voice inside my head when I finished… and wondered for days how she was doing, what she was thinking about, what her adulthood would be like…   But I had such a sense of vertigo and foreboding throughout much of my reading that I can’t help but begin my review with what troubled me most.

Pigeon, the narrator, is five years old, yet she is left alone much of the time.  This seems so unbelievably irresponsible on the part of her mother that I had a hard time finding Joan (the mother) remotely sympathetic.  Now, she is not a particularly likeable character to begin with, but I simply can’t imagine a five-year-old fending for herself day after day —  even once in New York City!  

The novel was told in the first person, but Pigeon’s voice was not that of a five-year-old, so I was relieved when the older Pigeon would occasionally make a brief appearance to remind us that she was now an adult reflecting on a long ago past:

“Unlike other children, I seemed immune to the contagious illnesses that flourished among schools and playgrounds; I was invariably in good health.  Instead, I was susceptible to the varying moods of those around me. I picked them up — the highs and lows — as easily as others did the chicken pox or winter colds. I am still that way — with coworkers, friends, lovers. But most of all my family.”

I think I would have enjoyed even more of the older Pigeon’s perspective — but not at the exclusion of the young Pigeon.  This novel is quite short and could have been a bit longer, honestly.  I would have enjoyed reading more about Pigeon’s siblings — Dove’s future with Stan, Robin’s thoughts throughout that summer.  Robin is truly the hero of this novel — caring for his little sister in ways that no one else thinks to do — but Robin is only 8 years old himself! 

Beyond feeling unbalanced by the neglect of the children, my other emotion was sadness.  Really, beyond “sad” — tragic is more appropriate.  I know there must be children left to fend for themselves in the world, beyond the eye of social services…  And the effects of this abandonment on Pigeon — who focuses more on her absent father’s abandonment than the daily neglect of her mother — is expressed by an adult reluctance to accept love or intimacy:

“…it seemed to me then that we were often guilty of speaking that way in our family, as if our lives were all so segmented that what was said by one person could not possibly affect anyone else in the room. Like words held within cartoon balloons, only the characters were all from different comic strips, different pages…

Perhaps our mother knew something that I am unwilling to grasp even today — that love, although powerful and consuming, is never given in the right doses.  It is either controlling and too binding, relinquinshed begrudgingly as if it were a painful sacrifice, or doled out in such a haphazard fashion that one is left bewildered, lost.”

I must say that I did connect with Pigeon and the novel had a very satisfying narrative pace — quick and engaging.  In fact, I connected so much with Pigeon that I wanted to find her and Robin a new family — I knew that their older sister, Dove, would be fine.  I guess I figured Robin and Pigeon would be fine, too, but was certainly irritated that they had to find this safety without any help from the significant, shockingly selfish adults in their lives.  So, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit and embrace a darling character, drop me a comment and I will choose a lucky winner by Saturday!

Thanks to Trisha and Lisa for asking to me part of this tour (and for the free book!).  

Wednesday, October 21st: Dolce Bellezza

Monday, October 26th: 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

Thursday, November 12th: Caribousmom

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15 Responses to TLC Tours Presents: Looking After Pigeon

  1. Maud says:

    Dear Kristen,

    Thank you for the wonderful review. I am so glad you connected with Pigeon– the fact that you worried about her and wanted to care for her is one of the main points in the book– are we all looking for someone to care for us AND someone to care for? I am not as harsh on the adults in her life as you are, but I certainly understand you feeling the way you do.
    At any rate, I so appreciate you bringing this book to the attention of your readers! And I can see what a careful and sympathetic reader you are yourself!
    Happy reading.


  2. Linda says:

    As a teacher of very young children, I see kids with lots of resilience every day. I’d love to visit with Pigeon and learn about her 5-year old wisdom of the world. Thanks for another great review and please enter me into your giveaway.

  3. Renee says:

    Me! Me! Pick me! I have a 6 yr old and a 3 yr old at home…I think this is a MUST READ for me…

  4. Maud says:

    Dear Linda and Renee,

    Whether you win my book or not, I do hope you will read it (It’s in paperback so its not too expensive). I would love to hear your perspective on it– as a parent, as a teacher, and as a human being in this world. When you read it, please remember that it takes place in the late 70’s when children did have more freedom, and even more important, that this is the memory of a now adult Pigeon. Of course our memories are selective– we remember the world based on all our experiences. Each child in a family remembers the past (and his/her own childhood) very differently.
    Please write to me after you’ve read the book– I love to hear from readers!

  5. Kristen says:

    Hi Maud!! Thank you so much for stopping by — I still think about Pigeon from time-to-time… Maybe you should consider writing a sequel? I, for one, would love to read how Pigeon and Robin navigate adolescence… Just a thought! 🙂

  6. Maud says:


    So glad Pigeon has stayed with you. I don’t know if I would ever write a sequel, but I do imagine that Pigeon, Robin and Dove are all happy and well in the world (I like to imagine this for all my characters). Life may knock us down and damage us, but we are all resilient, we all find love somewhere, and the world is too beautiful and awesome to waste on being unhappy all the time. At least this is my thinking.
    I also want to thank you for promoting reading and books on your blog. It is particularly difficult to “market” a literary novel from a small publisher, such as mine. So it is heartening to know that my book is at least being talked about (and hopefully read) by a larger audience.

    all my best wishes,

  7. trish says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, Kristen! One thing I like about your reviews is that you really get to the heart of a book and dig deep to find what the author was trying to do. Thanks for being on this tour!

  8. This sounds like a great book! I’d love to be entered.

  9. christine says:

    Your review has me hooked. To be thinking of character long after the last page is read is a powerful read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. Maud says:

    Kathy and Christine,

    Whether you win my book or not, I hope you will read it. And then please write me and let me know what you think. I truly love to hear from readers!


  11. Sue says:

    You’ve got me hooked – please enter me in your giveaway. Thanks!

  12. Teresa says:

    Interesting review! I would love to give the book a try, so please add me too.

  13. Wendy says:

    No need to add me to the giveaway since I am on the tour myself and already have the book *smiles*

    I agree – the adults were appalling at times, but I too connected with Pigeon – loved her actually and wanted to be reassured that she would be okay in the long run.

    Terrific review. Mine posts tomorrow 🙂

  14. Betsy says:

    Sounds like a great read – please enter me too!

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