Max Porter – Grief is the Thing with Feathers

This is one of those rare books that almost defies categorisation, and one I find just that little bit tougher to review. It’s one that I imagine everyone will get something out of, and everyone will have a different reading of it.

It features two young boys dealing with the terrible death of their mother. Their father doesn’t know what to do with himself after they go to bed, the loss of his wife having created a desperate empty space. The book shows the nature of an unfinished life, with unread books and food that his wife will never eat playing on his mind constantly.

He misses her so much he wants to build a monument to her, and he feels he’s forgetting some of the things that made her so great. He rushes to tell the boys some choice stories but they’re already all too aware of the brilliance of the woman. The boys cannot believe there isn’t more fuss being made of her death, unable to understand why the place isn’t surrounded by emergency vehicles after a death of such huge magnitude from their perspective. They’re thinking far into the future and feel they’ll always be sure to call their mother ‘Granny’ when their father becomes ‘Granpa’.

They’re all visited by Crow, a character that feels that humans are dull except when they’re grieving. Crow is there for them, watching over them, guiding them and giving some choice views on their daily life. This is brilliantly put across by Porter, and you’ll certainly be both spooked and charmed by the character’s presence in your life.

The father in the book knows that death isn’t just something you can just move on from, but rather something very long-term. Crow promises to be there for as long as the family needs him to be. The book will have a huge impact on anyone affected by a great loss in their life and it’s one that’ll stand up to repeat readings over the years.


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