The Bird that Nobody Sees by Stuart Ayris

This is the second part of the Frugality trilogy. The first part Tollesbury Time Forever has gone right up there amongst my all time favourite books (and I’ve read a lot of books) so I was worried whether Bird would live up to my expectations. But with Ayris the whole thing is you have to give up your expectations and go with what you are presented. That’s where the joy of the experience lies.

He clearly understands the role of perspective in life: ‘perhaps it’s just that everything in this world grows and shrinks depending upon how you feel about yourself at any given moment.’

And this story, which appears at the beginning to be a dark story of revenge which states that ‘Having nowhere to fall is truly what makes a man dangerous’ is in fact about the restorative power of love. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Well before I could make sense of how this could be given the ‘plot’, I had this overwhelming sense that this was a love story.  I wondered how on earth I would justify this statement. I wondered how on earth I would be able to review this book. It just doesn’t fit within what one ‘normally’ expects.  Perspective is everything.  So I just had to keep reading. Keep opening myself to the writer. And what a writer. Ayris writes each sentence with love. The love dances through the language – he loves words, he loves his characters and the whole story just becomes infused with love but not a soppy, romantic kind of love. He plays with words, he plays with concepts and thoughts and hopes and dreams in a quite unique and exciting way.  In consequence I can say that this is the most curious love story you will ever read.  But maybe one of the truest. It’s about love for people, for life, for words and thoughts and hopes and dreams.  As with Tollesbury Time Forever, Ayris changes the way you think of writing and the world even as you take the reading journey.

The Bird that Nobody Sees goes far beyond the basic story of a small man who gets put in prison as result of a ridiculous mistake involving a washing machine with no door falling off the back of a lorry. It goes far beyond the story of guys in a pub. Guys having a weekend away. Guys playing paintball.  These are stories which wouldn’t interest me in the normal run of things, but Ayris draws me into them. There is humour in spades. Sometimes the story begs to be read out loud and when you do, you find you are laughing all the way through, BUT you also confront some deeply important issues. An example is where he relates paintballing in terms of the Great War: it is both very funny and very thought provoking.  Ayris shows up human frailty and strength in equal measure and often at the same time. No one is perfect but everyone has the potential to be something special. And there are angels.

Now I have always had a preternatural aversion to talk of angels. But Ayris sets up another kind of angel. Something based on reality and everydayness. Yet he infuses a depth to the story which exudes pain and poignancy in equal measure.  Again, underlying what seems a fairly ‘ordinary’ story of a father trying to keep his family together after the death of his wife he sets up an Angels Collective. He forces you to reassess the way you see the world and the people who inhabit it. It’s powerful stuff. ‘Just surround yourself with good people and live as simply as you can.’ Simple to say but as deep an interpretation of life as you are ever likely to get.

Ayris keeps a plot going like a baseline, but he toys with structure. And this is the great strength of his writing.  He refuses to be bound by structure or rules or conventions. He flies around and above and beyond them. His relationship with language is almost visceral. So yes he keeps a basic plot line running through, but the story is so much more than this. The depths of the human experience he covers show that the whole narrative is a complex sequence of parables – but parables of everyday experience and everyday love which provide a unique and individual view of the world.

It’s clear that a conventional happy ending isn’t what one is going to get, because we are not even at the end, we have another part to go. And I’m certain it will be just as wild, way out and wonderful as the two parts I’ve already read.  Though you don’t live through a work by Stuart Ayris, you experience it.  And grow through the experience.

Reviewed by Cally Phillips

Available in Kindle format

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