Sixteen-year-old Gradle Bird has lived her entire life with her Grandpa, Leonard, at a seedy motel and truck stop off Georgia’s I-16. But when Leonard moves her to a crumbling old house rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Ms. Annalee Spivey, Gradle is plunged into a lush, magical world much stranger and more dangerous than from the one she came.
Here she meets Sonny Joe Stitch, a Siamese fighting fish connoisseur overdosed on testosterone, a crippled, Bible-thumping hobo named Ceif “Tadpole” Walker, and the only true friend she will ever know, a schizophrenic genius, music-man, and professional dumpster-diver, D-5 Delvis Miles.
As Gradle falls deeper into Delvis’s imaginary and fantastical world, unsettling dangers lurk, and when surfaced Gradle discovers unforeseen depths in herself and the people she loves the most.
Gradle Bird is an unusual tale of self-discovery and redemption that explores the infirmities of fatherly love, the complexities of human cruelty, and the consequences of guilt, proving they are possible to overcome no matter how dark and horrible the cause.
Gradle Bird was shortlisted in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom novel competition, and has been selected as a 2017 Pulpwood Queens book club pick. It releases June 15, 2017 from Koehler Books, and is now available for pre-order.
Gradle Bird is now available for pre-order and officially releases Jun 15, 2017 from Koehler Books. Author J.C. Sasser will be available for live book club appearances as well as via Skype or phone conference. At right, several Book Club Discussion Guide questions to get your club talking about the many layers in Gradle Bird!
- Gradle is old enough to run away from her life and strike out on her own. Why do you think Gradle chooses to stay with her grandfather Leonard?
- In what ways does Gradle compensate for the lack of love from her grandfather Leonard? Why is male attention so important in a teenage girl’s life? How would you describe Gradle’s father complex? How is this complex positive or negative and what are the consequences of each?
- Why do you think Gradle is so drawn to Delvis Miles?
- In what ways is Gradle naïve? In what ways is she wise? In what ways is Delvis naïve? In what way is he wise?
- How do you think Gradle changed over the course of the novel? Which character do you think played the most important role in her self-discovery?
- At the onset of the novel, would you consider Delvis to be dangerous? Did your opinions about Delvis change over the course of the story? If not, why? If one were to attempt to clinically diagnose Delvis, what would his diagnosis be?
- How does the setting compliment the themes of the novel?
- What role does Christianity play in Gradle Bird?
- Guilt and forgiveness are prevalent themes; how do each of the main characters deal with guilt? How has their handling of guilt impacted their lives and those around them?
- How do each of the characters attempt to forgive themselves? Are any of these attempts successful? What constitutes forgiveness? Which is more powerful and why, forgiving yourself or having others forgive you?
- What are some examples the characters perform self-inflicted punishment for what they believe to be unjust acts?
- All of the main characters in Gradle Bird are tragic. Which character do you think is the most tragic and why?
- Do you believe Annalee is real or a figment of both Leonard’s and Delvis’s imagination? Why are they the only two characters who see her?
- Gradle Bird explores facets of human cruelty. How would you explain human cruelty? Why do you think Delvis Miles is a target? Why do you think Sonny Joe is an aggressor of cruelty? Why do you think Ceif entertains these cruel acts alongside Sonny Joe? In the beginning, why do you think Gradle entertains these cruel acts?
- Why in the beginning to you think Gradle is attracted to Sonny Joe? What make him both attractive and unattractive? Explain why young girls are typically attracted to bad boys? Is the attraction biological or psychological, a combination of both?
- Three of the characters in Gradle Bird have committed unspeakable crimes. Do you consider them criminals?
- Do you think Delvis should be prosecuted for his crime? If so, why? If not, why? Do you consider Delvis’s act an accident or crime?
- Do you believe Sonny Joe was an accessory to Delvis’s crime? If so, why? If not, why? If so, do you think Sonny Joe should be punished? If so, why? If not, why?
- What do you think Sonny Joe’s future holds? Do you believe Ceif’s hopes for Sonny Joe’s salvation come to fruition?
- What do you think happened to Delvis?
- What do you think Gradle’s and Leonard’s future holds?