Friday, November 15, 2019

"One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow"

Through unexpected characters and vivid prose, Olivia Hawker explores the varied landscape of the human spirit. Hawker’s interest in genealogy often informs her writing. Her first two novels from Lake Union Publishing, The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow (2019), are based on true stories found within the author’s family tree.

She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State with her husband Paul and several naughty cats.

Hawker applied the Page 69 Test to One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow and reported the following:
From page 69:
I had never really known Substance in life, but I knew him now, in death… and a more stubborn man the world had never seen. No one who died stayed put together afterward quite so long as Substance—no one I’d ever encountered, anyway. But there he was, a presence hanging over his own grave, aware, knowing, furious in the face of his fate. The hens I killed for our soup pot fell apart the moment their wings stopped flapping—those quick, curious, darting little spirits bursting like sparks from a campfire, dispersing out into the world. My ma had cherished a pet cat some years ago, and when it had died suddenly, I sat beside its body and felt the cat’s awareness linger for half an hour or more. The cat had been amazed by its sudden weightlessness, pleasantly drawn to all the silver strands of light that reached for it, thirsty for its spirit—the threads of all the lives that continued on: mine and my family’s and the hens in the yard and the cattle in their pen, the squash vines and carrots in the garden, the insects trilling on the prairie—the prairie itself. Sheep seemed to consent to their dissolution even before their bodies had died—and most plants, too, as if the great unraveling was a sacredness for which they had always lived. But Substance Webber refused to do what other spirits did. He would not be dissolved. He would permit no other life to touch him, to take him, to use him. He didn’t yet know that we can’t remain whole forever, but he would learn the truth soon enough. No one escapes the great unraveling; no thread is unspooled and escapes the weaver’s hand. I knew the roots of the newly sprouted grasses surrounded Substance’s body. The bindweed thrived on his rich flesh. A few yards away, the cottonwoods were already reaching toward him, delving through the soil with ancient hands. Before much longer, the earth would take every last bit of Substance Webber, whether he consented to be taken or not.

But he wasn’t gone yet.
I think page 69 of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow is a pretty solid representation of the book as a whole. On this page, Beulah recounts her attempts to convince the spirit of Substance Webber to stop hanging around his grave and “fall apart”—surrender to the fact of his death, relinquish his hold on his ego, and accept his place in the cycles of life. The rest of the novel deals with those same ideas, so this page is a pretty good indicator of what the reader will encounter throughout the book.
Visit Olivia Hawker's website.

My Book, The Movie: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

--Marshal Zeringue