Bird Box by Josh Malerman


I recently came across this novel while looking for something halfway decent to read on a flight to Atlanta. We’ve all likely had the experience of buying anything on sale, including books, only to find the quality wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

The novel opens with dark anxiety which immediately set me up for the apocalyptic world to come. In this story the reader experiences the world unfolding from the beginning. Set in modern day, Malerman takes an eerie practicality in shifting our world into one of claustrophobia and silence.

The narrative voice is in the third person, and the tone is reminiscent of stage directions. Malorie, the main character, is so focus on survival for her and her children, that this voice suits narrative. The language is bleak like the world, yet effective to keeping the reader submerged. It may have been even more interesting to see a shift in the narrative voice. The story shifts time from the beginning of the Bird Box mystery to the present day where Malorie is planning her escape. The narrative voice isn’t quite as effective in the past where the characters still have a sense of control, purpose and curiosity. The voice also uses very minimal description in the senses which is a shame. As you can tell from the book cover above, the characters often have their eyes closed, so I would’ve liked more sensory sensation. However, for the present quite world, it’s spot on and powerful.

Malerman’s pacing is quite fluid. Though time shifts frequently, each chapter is connected and formative to Malorie’s motherhood. As a mother Malorie is completely totalitarian. Brutal or even abusive by real world standards, but in this world her methods of child rearing may be their only means of protection. While the children are strong, Malorie can only create the facade of strength for herself. The display questions for Malorie, as well as the audience, what is the proper way to raise children in any world.

The novel touches on other themes such as human curiosity, psychology, and obsession.

I went in with no expectation other than an intriguing premise, but Bird Box is well thought out and crafted. I recommend it to readers of literature that don’t mind a little heavy lifting.