Publisher: Puncher and Wattmann
Bird, Adam Morris’s second novel, follows the story of Carson, a charismatic young Noongar male who in another life and with different opportunities might be anything at all. But when we meet Carson he is a prisoner, and then he is on parole, and then he is a prisoner again, and that is the point of Bird – Carson’s life circumstances are like a snare around his neck that gets tighter the more he struggles to assert himself, or at least elude the consequences of his earlier misdemeanours. Some of the story is set in the prison, where Carson at least has some status, and some of the story is set on the streets where Carson’s friends make money by dealing, stealing or standing over others. In both contexts, Carson is equally part of the criminal justice system that governs his fate wherever he moves. He stands up for himself against racist abuse, he ends up inside; he goes back to his old life and it’s just a matter of time before he ends up inside. To reflect this ensnarement the novel is told from the multiple viewpoints of pretty much every character in the novel except Carson, whose agency is clear but so is his fate. The narrators are criminals, cops, prison officers, psychs and case workers, each of them flawed, all to varying degrees self-interested, tawdry, struggling ─ acting out the roles that the criminal justice system, the system that ‘there is really nothing behind … at all’, has placed them in. Bird is a starkly original and timely novel that doesn’t hold back. Bleakly comical one moment, brutally honest the next, Bird explores in detail a world of crime, poverty and punishment that diminishes us all, but none more so than the clever, quick and proud character of Carson, and all those men and women like him.