This title is our December 2018 pick for the UNICORN BOOKCLUB! Find out more here.
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press; 1st Edition edition (June 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555977413
- ISBN-13: 978-1555977412
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 7.6 inches
* Winner of of the International Dylan Thomas Prize *
* Rights sold in thirteen countries *
* Finalist for the Guardian First Book Award *
* Finalist for the Goldsmiths Prize *
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.
“As resonant, elliptical and distilled as a poem, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers is one of the most moving, wildly inventive first novels you're likely to encounter this year. It's funny ― in a jet-black way ― yet also fiercely emotional, capturing the painful sucker-punch of loss with a fresh immediacy that rivals Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. . . . Like C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, Julian Barnes' Levels of Life, Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk . . . Porter's unusual novel puts grief in its place not by dismissing it, but by confronting it dead-on as a painful but inescapable part of life. Grief is the Thing With Feathers is a wondrous, supremely literary, ultimately hopeful little book.”―NPR.org
“Grief Is the Thing with Feathers” argues that books, literature and poetry can help save us. This book is a sublime and painful conjuring of a family’s grief and the misfit creature with the power to both haunt and help them. It is a complex story, not simply-told or sparse: Nothing is missing. Let it be a call for more great books of this length to be recognized for what they are ― whole. Extraordinary is a book with feathers.”―Los Angeles Times
“Like a book of hours for the bereaved. . . . Mr. Porter gives expression to grief in all its emotional manifestations. . . . Unpredictably playful, [filled] with sarcasm, absurdity and black-winged humor.”―The Wall Street Journal
“Piercing the wordplay and abstractions and flights of fancy are the sharp specifics that make the family's loss clear and their grief that much more real. . . . [Grief Is the Thing with Feathers transforms] the indescribable absence that is grief into palpable, undeniable life.”―Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“[A] bizarre and brilliant debut. . . . What keeps the story from being excessively familiar is Porter's sense of detail . . . as well as his imaginative and elegant approaches to structure and style. . . . Simultaneously straightforward and mysterious, the book illustrates the need for and calls into question "moving on, as a concept.”―Chicago Tribune
“A powerful, surreal novella-poem of grief and healing. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Dad struggles to take care of his boys, himself, and finish his book on the poetry of Ted Hughes. Crow (a man-size black bird) moves in, taking the role of wild but tender shepherd to the family.”―San Francisco Chronicle
“Porter’s debut has meatiness to it―a denseness of allegory and allusion; a mélange of fairy tale, fable and dream. . . . The family’s sadness is rendered exquisitely, both in figurative and prosaic language. . . . Layered with pathos, allusion, and humor, Grief is the Thing with Feathers is more than the sum of its composite elements. Pithy yet rich, the novel is a moving and astounding debut. Porter’s Crow is as vivid as Hughes’ original, and his writing no less memorable.”―Electric Literature
“Porter’s collage of prose and lineated poetry is the very opposite of self-help. [ Grief is the Thing with Feathers] does not seek to offer answers, but instead brilliantly mimics the chaos of the grieving brain, offering a vision of how loss dramatically alters it. . . . Porter’s book is a gift in its understanding of the sounds and reverberations of grief.”―The Rumpus
“Allusive and half-poetic, Porter’s tribute to a family’s grief and to Crow, a cycle of Ted Hughes poems, is both simple and invigoratingly bizarre: A Hughes scholar and his two sons mourn the accidental death of their mother with the help, it seems, of a plastic crow come to life. “Dad,” “Crow,” and “Boys” take turns narrating, tracing the arc of a mourning process that will neither be rushed nor slowed. You don’t have to read Hughes’s Crow first, but you might as well; both books are short, strange, and timeless.”―Vulture
“Remarkable. . . . One-of-a-kind. . . . Heartbreaking. . . . Brilliant.”―The Atlantic
“[Porter captures] not only the puzzle of a father-son interaction but also its music, its varied and unpredictable textures.”―New Republic
“At once surprising, terrifying, and poignant.”―Broadly
“A heartbreaking and life-affirming meditation on the dislocating power of grief. . . . Porter’s characters express their feelings through observations that are profound and simply phrased. . . . The powerful emotions evoked in this novel will resonate with anyone who has experienced love, loss, and mourning.”―Publishers Weekly
“Porter delivers a staggering tale of a father grappling with the sudden loss of his wife in this sharply poetic and darkly stunning debut novel. . . . A truly exceptional work of fiction. . . . Readers will not soon forget Porter’s distinct style.”―Booklist, starred review
“Porter’s daringly strange story skirts disbelief to speak, engagingly and effectively, of the pain this world inflicts, of where the ghosts go, and of how we are left to press on and endure it all. Elegant, imaginative, and perfectly paced. A contribution to the literature of grief and to literature in general.”―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A whimsical and ultimately pleasing perspective on grief . . . utterly original.”―Shelf Awareness
"A haunting debut."―Brooklyn Magazine
“A short, singular, and entirely alluring book that defies convention, and definition, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers works like a form of literary magic.”―The National Book Review
“Grief Is the Thing with Feathers . . . follows a father of two through the year after the death of his wife. The chapters are compressed, poetic vignettes that evoke the chimera of grief through suggestion and indirection. And then, more evocative still: the arrival of a giant, metempsychotic raven straight out of Ted Hughes’s Crow. You quickly forget that the book is weird as hell, because it is also beautiful as hell, moving as hell, and funny as hell.”―Garth Risk Hallberg in The Millions’ “Year in Reading”
“Grief Is the Thing with Feathers gives the form of the novel shades of parables and poetry. . . . Max Porter’s debut novel is endearing and powerful, and the last page will leave you stunned.”―Steven Tran, Word Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
“An electrifying novel. . . . Unique in its structure, imagery, and the character of wild Crow, the book is simple and uncomplicated in its appeal to the reader’s own understandings of life, death, grief, dreams, and reconciliation, while offering new ways to think about these universal themes as the book comes to a perfect conclusion.”―Seeing the World Through Books
“Porter offers a fresh, invigorating treatment of bereavement. . . . Grief Is the Thing with Feathers shatters familiar notions of what we think we know about loss and mourning, transforming the grief narrative into something darker, beastlier, not quite comforting, yet also oddly refreshing, and even funny. Max Porter’s compressed debut is a richly complex and captivating feathered miracle.”―The Northwest Review of Books
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.