Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max PorterGrief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
Published by Graywolf Press on June 7th 2016
Source: Publisher
Pages: 128
Buy from IndieBound


Part novel, part poem, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers cycles quickly through the perspectives of “Dad”, “Boys”, and “Crow”, a physical manifestation of a family’s grief who enters by declaring, “I won’t leave until you don’t need me any more”. Crow’s pecking prose serves as an overhead view of a father and his two sons following the sudden death of their wife and mother.

“The house becomes a physical encyclopedia of no-longer hers, which shocks and shocks and is the principal difference between our house and a house where illness has worked away. Ill people, in their last day on Earth, do not leave notes stuck on bottles of red wine saying ‘OH NO YOU DON’T COCK-CHEEK’. She was not busy dying, and there is no detritus of care, she was simply busy living, and then she was gone.”

I will always love falling into a doorstop of a book, but I’m starting to find almost companion enjoyment in the instant reread of super short, multi-layered novels like Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. Woven into the narrative is the protagonist’s work on a book called Ted Hughes’ Crow on the Couch: A Wild Analysis, which is delayed by the arrival of his own Crow. There is so much to absorb in Grief’s 128 pages, it’s nearly impossible to do in a single read, particularly through tears.

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers left me awed by its intricate use of space, much like Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, and as emotionally wrecked as Edward Hirsch’s Gabriel. In a year marked by wishy-washy reactions to too many books, Max Porter reminded me why I love to read.


  • I didn’t even know I wanted to read this book until this review. <3

  • Like Becca, I wasn’t sure about this one. The “part poetry” really turned me off…but the quote you shared is just beautiful. Might have to give it a shot.

  • Yes! I feel like I’ve read a lot of good books this year but there haven’t been too many that absolutely rocked my socks. I’m so glad I have this one on my tbr list.

  • This sounds like one to save until I’m ready for the emotional onslaught. I’m so glad you loved it!

  • You said it all so well once again, my friend. So glad I had a chance to read this book recently.

  • This one is literally sitting next to me on the couch! I’m hoping to get to it this weekend… The Hubs is forcing me to leave for a bit this weekend, so I think I’ll hit up a coffee shop and do a little uninterrupted, non-phone reading, and this one is top of the list.

  • I just put a library hold on this one. I’m so looking forward to a quiet afternoon of emotional wreckage.

  • I’ve been curious about this one and am waiting for my library to stock it. I didn’t realize it is as short as it is.

  • It’s rare that I add a book to my TBR after just reading a single post, but between your words here and your mentioning on twitter, I know I MUST read this one. Sounds beautiful–and I feel weird admitting that I love books that wreck me emotionally, but it’s true.

  • So, only 2 copies available in my whole statewide library system! And I couldn’t place a hold…for some reason! Weird. I’ll keep an eye out for it, though. Maybe I’ll get lucky at a used bookstore or something! You know, this sounds fascinating. Just the idea of someone dying who wasn’t “ill” or the death wasn’t expected and then that person is still all over the house you shared with him/her. That would be very tough.

    • Oh no! Maybe they’ll get more – it’s very new. And it’s a paperback, so nice and cheap if you do run into it!

  • Lauren @ Malcolm Avenue Review

    I can’t read this yet, but I just got my copy and your tweets have been enough of a push. Can’t wait to get to it.

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  • Since grief is kind of my trade, I’m definitely going to read this one; thanks for the great recommendation, Shannon!

  • This sounds so good! Beautiful quotes.

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  • Care

    Great post! I want to send this book for a friend who is grieving and just don’t know if she would appreciate? be ready? is that a worthy consideration? I do think she would love it so I think I might. All I do is compose notes to her in my head and then never write them down. I’m that bad friend who doesn’t know what to say so I say nothing and I know I’m being awful. That was what I was thinking about the whole time experiencing this book.

    • Have you read Julianne’s review at Outlandish Lit? She talks about reading it and the loss of her father…it might help you decide. It’s such a tough call with books like this, but I think even if the person doesn’t read right away, its a nice gesture and lets them know you’re thinking of them in their process.

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