Published by Graywolf Press on June 7th 2016
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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.