Finding your father hanging from a previously unused hook in the ceiling of your apartment entrance is scarring enough, but being raised by two eccentric grandparents has left Jack Dixon with pieces to a puzzle he can’t yet solve.
After working for years in his grandfather’s Main Street dress shop, successful despite Walmart, Jack loses the shop to his uncle Frank… leaving him nowhere to turn but the local Food Lion, where he tries to find the same satisfaction in supplying the town with apples, onions, and Swiss chard that he did in supplying its upper-class women with church clothes.
At Food Lion, he also finds Ashleigh, divorced mother of two and insecure master of self-checkout lines. The two begin a tentative relationship, bordered by the matronly tyranny they both endure and the First Methodist Church’s Christmas pageant, which Ashleigh’s mother directs every year in a style that pleases herself, displeases Jack’s grandmother, and terrorizes the children who participate.
Told in alternating time lines, the present-day pageant debacles are given depth and meaning by tumultuous pasts that show even the most mundane lives hide a world of secrets, fears, and truths. From Amelia—an elderly disabled woman who stages a nursery tea party as a cover for stealing a pageant costume—to Jack’s grandfather’s frenzied passing and an artist-beekeeper’s nighttime exploits, As Birds Fly Upward is more than just a novel of eccentric characters: it’s a study of the human condition, the intricacies in the lives of every person and mix in every town, and the puzzles that we all try to solve, one odd piece at a time.