Book Club Reflection: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

27 Oct

Reading a local author is fun. Especially when he sets his book in your local area (though you’re unable to identify the river in the book) and one of his friends from high school is in your book club! If only my tweets had gotten him to join us.

There were a lot of comparisons to ‘The Walking Dead’ in our discussion. A fellow member and I were reminded of Terminus when Malorie reached the school. We were both afraid she’d be eaten! The man at the end is even named Rick, the main character from ‘The Walking Dead.’ In fact, this book was ready to publish in 2007 but publishers delayed publication date because they felt the market was too saturated with the genre. Fortunately, it has been optioned for film. I’d be curious to see how this could be made into a film when so much of it is about not being able to see.

We talked a lot about the title. The bird box didn’t seem to be a very big part of the plot, but the author thought it was important enough to merit the title. We thought it was an allegory for being on your own in a small, dark little world, but Malerman has come out and said that’s not true. The box is very similar to how the housemates lived in the house, shut off from everything outside and afraid when something came near.

People in the book either died violently and quietly. The contrast between Tom’s daughter and George are startling. We think some died quietly because they knew what they were going to see, they knew they were risking something when they opened their eyes or peeked. We suspect some of them killed themselves before completely losing their minds so they couldn’t kill others. Or maybe, as Gary suggests, people are affected differently and some of them wouldn’t get violent. I don’t like the idea of Gary being right about anything.

The scene where Malorie almost blinds her children was disturbing. In reality, why wouldn’t she? The children would be much safer and live better lives if they didn’t have to worry about seeing something that could kill them. We thought it was a sign of hope that she didn’t take their eyesight. She had to believe that things would get better to keep their eyes. Not giving them names could be construed as a sign of hope as well; that they would someday live in a world where names to distinguish one Boy from another were needed. Though we also would have been able to guess the climax from their names and would have known they weren’t twins. Malerman commented on this as well and said Malorie didn’t name the children because names were a luxury to her. They didn’t help her survive so she didn’t need them.

We had a lot of discussion about the creatures. Were they real? Was Gary the monster? Or was Gary right and it was the idea of something that was scaring people? We thought the ending scene where Malorie’s blindfold is lifted off her face implied that they are real creatures with real mass. That begged the question: Do these creatures know what they’re doing? Are the purposefully destroying humans on earth? We suspected this was the case only because of a scene toward the end. The birds that die in the skies have survived for more than four years. With how quickly a human died when looking out a window, we suspected that the creatures could choose to affect someone or something and chose to affect the birds to cause Malorie and the children distress. If the effect was mental like Gary thought, the animals wouldn’t be affected but the blind would.

Gary came off as very odd and less developed than the rest of the characters. We thought this was purposeful because our conclusion is that he was crazy. He was crazy enough not to be affected, like the man on the river. Some of us wondered if the man on the river was Gary, but we thought he would have said something creepy to scare Malorie and she likely would have recognized his voice.

A few members were dissatisfied with the ending of the book. They felt it was lacking and to an extent, I agree. The whole book, the reader is trying to figure out what these creatures are and we never find out. It felt like the school was a very contrived way to end everything neatly. Though how the ending could have been satisfying is hard to say. For a while, we thought Tom was going to be alive because Malorie heard his name on the speaker and we didn’t know about his death yet. That might have been satisfying, but not fitting.

In the end, how much better off was Malorie? It still could have been a Terminus kind of situation, she had no reason to trust the people there. How much longer could Malorie have survived alone? It seemed like her food supply should have run out long before the children were four. She’d have to have a lot of trust in these people she’s just met. What if there’s a breach again and they want to blind her and the children? She might have been better off alone.

We enjoyed the pacing of the book. It was enough to keep us on our toes and a lot of people (like me) raced through the book. There were a few characters we didn’t think were necessary to the plot, specifically Felix and Cheryl. The only thing this book lacked was sexual tension and that seems like something they could have added. You could argue there might have been something between Malorie and Tom, but I never felt like that was going to happen.

Our next book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’m listening to the audio now and didn’t realize how much I’d forgotten since I read it in high school. It’s sure to be a fun discussion.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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