Legendary writer Gayl Jones returns with a stunning new novel about Black American artists in exile
by Gayl Jones
Beacon Press, September 2022
Gayl Jones, the novelist Toni Morrison discovered decades ago and Tayari Jones recently called her favorite writer, has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century. Now, for the first time in over 20 years, Jones is publishing again. In the wake of her long-awaited fifth novel, Palmares, The Birdcatcher is another singular achievement, a return to the circles of her National Book Award finalist, The Healing.
Set primarily on the island of Ibiza, the story is narrated by the writer Amanda Wordlaw, whose closest friend, a gifted sculptor named Catherine Shuger, is repeatedly institutionalized for trying to kill a husband who never leaves her. The three form a quirky triangle on the white-washed island.
A study in Black women’s creative expression, and the intensity of their relationships, this work from Jones shows off her range and insight into the vicissitudes of all human nature—rewarding longtime fans and bringing her talent to a new generation of readers.
“Jones continues her marvelous run after last year’s Pulitzer finalist Palmares with the gloriously demented story of an artist who keeps trying to kill her husband . . . . Jones, implicitly defiant, draws deeply from classic and global literature—a well-placed reference to Cervantes’s windmills leaves the reader’s head spinning. And like one of Amanda’s inventive novels, this one ends on a surprising and playful turn. It ought to be required reading.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“The remarkable latest release by acclaimed novelist and poet Jones . . . Her prose is captivating, at moments coolly observational and at others profoundly intimate; the delicate balance is the mark of a truly great storyteller. An intriguing, tightly crafted, and insightful meditation on creativity and complicated friendships.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“Jones’ mercurial, often inscrutable body of work delivers yet another change-up to readers’ expectations.”
“Gayl Jones constructs a novel that is part mystery, part thriller, and wholly captivating. . . . a shining segment of the American literary canon has been restored.”
—Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement UK
“Brilliant and incendiary, Jones’s pairing of tragedy with dark humor cuts to the bone.”
“[A novel with] the plush scenery of a travelogue, the misshapen soul of a noir, and the anarchic spirit of a trickster tale.”
—The New Yorker
Gayl Jones was born in Kentucky in 1949. She attended Connecticut College and Brown University, and has taught at Wellesley College and the University of Michigan. Her landmark books include Corregidora, Eva’s Man, The Healing (a National Book Award finalist and New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Palmares (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction), and most recently, The Birdcatcher (National Book Award finalist).