Friday, May 18, 2018

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers: A Novel Paperback – June 7, 2016 by Max Porter (Graywolf Press)

A small book (114 pages) that on one hand can be quickly read, on the other hand, I read it twice to get its full meaning as it's written in an unusal manner. The story is about mourning and survival after the death of a loved one, so the disjointed style very accurately catches your thinking and feelings at such a time. This may sound depressing, but it's not, it even has a few funny moments. Before reading it though, I'd look up "Ted Hughes, Sylvia Platte and crow" on Wickipedia as the protaganist is writing a book about them, they are mentioned quite a bit, and are relevant to his thinking. It only takes a minute to check this out and it's worth it. If you don't know Emily Dickens' mini poem "Hope is a Thing with Feathers", check that out, too. Both of these references add depth to this very moving and inciteful book.

Here he is, husband and father, scruffy romantic, a shambolic scholar--a man adrift in the wake of his wife's sudden, accidental death. And there are his two sons who like him struggle in their London apartment to face the unbearable sadness that has engulfed them. The father imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness, while the boys wander, savage and unsupervised.
In this moment of violent despair they are visited by Crow--antagonist, trickster, goad, protector, therapist, and babysitter. This self-described "sentimental bird," at once wild and tender, who "finds humans dull except in grief," threatens to stay with the wounded family until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and the pain of loss lessens with the balm of memories, Crow's efforts are rewarded and the little unit of three begins to recover: Dad resumes his book about the poet Ted Hughes; the boys get on with it, grow up.
Part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter's extraordinary debut combines compassion and bravura style to dazzling effect. Full of angular wit and profound truths, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is a startlingly original and haunting debut by a significant new talent.

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