Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: "Grief is the Thing with Feathers" by Max Porter

Short, charming and harmless, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, the debut novel from English writer Max Porter, is short enough to finish in a day, but also quite intoxicating and deeply moving. Not so much a novel as a prose poem or even a stage play, this book reminded me a lot of what Mark Z. Danielewski is doing right now with books like Only Revolutions and The Fifty Year Sword, only here it is much easier to swallow and is also quite good, even funny at times. While it’s scattershot style and stream of consciousness narration tended to keep a lot of the emotional impact of what is a very dramatic story at arm’s length at least for me, it has enough intrigue packed within its short, oddly laid out pages to make the short trip worthwhile. At the beginning of the book, a man and his two sons are reeling from the sudden death of their mother. When the man answers the door, thinking it might be another unwanted mourner or past friend of his wife, a crow greets him.  The crow’s size is never made clear, but he is strong and knocks the man out, claiming that he will not leave the house until they work things out. Soon, the man begins work on his Ted Hughes biography, and the two boys slowly climb out of the bubble of make believe and accept the world around him. The crow is an interesting character, the most interesting since Murakami’s giant frog. He is a passive observer of things, fascinated by human grief. We learn of some past events of the trio’s life, such as the dad’s embarrassing meeting with the subject of his biography and the boy’s trepidation toward those their dad dates after their mom’s death. Not a slam-dunk by any means, this short novel wastes little of your time and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Rating: 4/5

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