Neither prose nor poetry but a strange and wonderful hybrid of both, Grief is the Thing with Feathers traces the arc of a family's emotional experience after the young mother's sudden death. If that doesn't sound like much fun to you, it didn't to me either. But somehow Max Porter's first book, a short 120 page "novel" that makes every word in every short paragraph count, was impossible for me to put down. Written from three points of view--"The Boys," "Dad," and my favorite, "Crow" (you just have to read it to understand the last one), Grief reads as if it was written in a trance. I have no idea why it works, but it really, really does.— Chris
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.
About the Author
Max Porter works in publishing. He lives in South London with his wife and children. Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is his first book.