Longlisted for the Guardian’s First Book Award, Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers is exquisitely written. In this 114 page book, Porter powerfully demonstrates the complexities of coping with the death of a loved one.
We join a grieving father and two sons mourning the loss of their wife and mother when suddenly a crow flies into the family at the height of their mourning: where one feels most lost. The book is told from three perspectives: the father, the sons and the crow.
Initially, we see the crow as a sort of Mary Poppins figure – think of the children first. Then later as a grief counsellor who disappears as quickly as it arrived. It was never meant to be a permanent fixture: “I won’t leave until you don’t need me any more.”
The depiction of the way the father copes with his grief through the use of the allegorical crow is inspired.
As someone who has lost both their parents, I felt that Porter wonderfully captured the confusing state of grief from the frustration with the realisation that life truly does go on: “The friends and family who had been hanging around being kind had gone home to their own lives” to the non-sensical way every day objects become so significant: “She won’t ever use (make-up, turmeric, hairbrush, thesaurus). She will never finish (Patricia Highsmith novel, peanut butter, lip balm).”
There were multiple times this book made me cry – noting it is only a 114 pages – there actually wasn’t a page that didn’t bring a tear.
Much has been said about the size of the book. Is it a novel, a novella, a poem or random thoughts placed in a somewhat coherent manner? Who cares. I’ve never read a book which so accurately reflects grief as this has.
Recommended for: anyone who has suffered from grief – this will touch you
Favourite quote: “I feel that if my wife’s ghost had ever haunted me, now would be the time she’d start whispering, ‘You need to ask Crow to leave.’”