Book Review: Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter


Author: Max Porter
Release Date: 25th August 2016
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 114
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.



In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.


This is probably the most unusual book I’ve read in 2016. Even after finishing it days ago I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Part fiction, part poetry and a few other things in between, this story is one that definitely sticks with you. The story surrounds a young family after the sudden death of their mother and wife. They cannot function without her and are overcome with grief. As a result of this a crow enters, becoming their counsellor and helper to piece the family back together.

The story is told from different perspectives – sometimes the dad, sometimes the kids and of course the crow. It is a fascinating look at how grief can affect people differently. The crow ultimately helps them to being to piece themselves back together before flying off and leaving them to continue on with their lives. This book is a short one, only one hundred and fourteen pages, but it feels like there is so much contained in such a short book. It’s difficult to even explain a little bit what this book is like. It’s wonderfully written, unique and beautiful.

This review will not remotely do this book justice. It’s dark and compelling, the crow is particularly fascinating – how he finds human’s dull except when they are grieving – and is such an interesting and poignant look at how grief can affect someone. Taken from the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope is a thing with feathers” this book is experimental, and doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of dealing with the loss of a loved one.

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