07 June 2016
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.
In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.
In this extraordinary debut - part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter's compassion and bravura style combine to dazzling effect. Full of unexpected humour and profound emotional truth, Grief is the Thing with Feathers marks the arrival of a thrilling new talent.
Grief is the Thing With Feathers basically destroyed me, so I'll try and write something coherent. Because this book is amazing.
A small family is devastated after the sudden death of their mother/wife. One evening Crow - the trickster bird of myth - appears on their doorstep and says that he will stay until he is no longer needed. Until the family has worked through their grief. So Crow helps put the children to bed and makes their school lunches and fights of evil characters who try to impersonate the dead mother.
This book is beautiful, mind-bending, and heartbreaking. The narrative is shared out between the father, Crow, and the two boys. The grief on the page is raw and sharp and just heart-wrenching. I cannot do justice to Porter's writing by writing about it. So here's a snap of one page:
I did not break until about page 92.
Grief is the Thing With Feathers is out now from Graywolf Press.
Dear FTC: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. Bonus Points to the person at Graywolf who sent out the packages because there were crow-sized footprints on the envelope: