cover image Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Max Porter. Graywolf, $14 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-55597-741-2

Porter’s first novel is a heartbreaking and life-affirming meditation on the dislocating power of grief. Events are presented from the viewpoint of three characters: a recently widowed dad, his two young boys, and a talking crow who, like Poe’s raven, roosts in their house as a tangible symbol of the family’s need to come to terms with their loss. The husband has been recently contracted to write a study of Ted Hughes’s Crow (written after the death of Sylvia Plath, who is also referenced here), and like the Hughes’s trickster Crow, this Crow shifts shape and personality to address the changing needs of the different family members. Porter’s characters express their feelings through observations that are profound and simply phrased. The dad recalls the harmonious feeling of lives shared early in his marriage, “when our love was settling into the shape of our lives like cake mixture reaching the corners of the tin as it swells and bakes.” The boys, dismayed at how protectively adults coddle them against the reality of their mother’s death, wonder, “Where are the fire engines? Where is the noise and clamour of an event like this?” The powerful emotions evoked in this novel will resonate with anyone who has experienced love, loss, and mourning. (June)