The Crane Husband

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A poignant look at motherhood, love, and familial relationships- this is a story of the complex emotional bonds, experienced by women, victimized by both their upbringing and domestic situations, that may become the chains of obsession and subjugation. But must they?

A fresh and satisfyingly empowered look at the Japanese fable “the Crane Wife”, I loved this rendition – a read that will appeal to lovers of horror, magical realism, speculative fiction, and bold ideas – which is certainly the strangest book I’ve read so far this year.

As our narrator, a fifteen-year old unnamed daughter and sister, inhabiting a rural farm in what reads like a grim and not-too-distant future, worries about her unstable and mostly absent artist mother, (who is a widow), it’s clear that it will take more than mom’s artistic temperament to explain her strange (and unhealthy) new infatuation with an enormous feathered crane.

Let me be clear. Her feathered companion is not only a crane, but a man-sized, be-speckled crane, who wears a top-hat, has a temperament that reveals itself to be cruel and sinister, and appears to have a squeamishly physical (let alone abusive) relationship with Mother. Who herself is increasingly pulling away from the family unit, now insisting the children identify her sharply-beaked partner as “Father”. Leaving our narrator to assume the care of her much-loved six year old brother, assuming the role (and all the responsibilities) now left vacant by her slowly dissolving parent.

A strange and startling little book, (perhaps more rightly labeled a novella) this story intertwines a newly-messaged crane-centered cross-generational fable, the urgency of a domestic nightmare, and the tale of a traumatized artist’s ill-fated, passionate and all-consuming quest to free herself through her ultimate artistic creation – a visually-intricate, immeasurably complex woven tapestry – as compelling, multi-textured and inescapable as the life-story of the characters it appears to mirror.

Desperate to find a way to free her mother from her dark obsession and release them all from the clutches of their avian tyrant, as the crane-mother pairing becomes confusingly malleable, (and incredibly creepy), freedom, and what exactly that may look like for each member of the family, begins to reveal itself. Freedom that, our narrator realizes, may be attainable – but would, in any case, come at a terrible cost. A cost which may, in fact, be worth it.

All in all a fascinating and compelling read, this book is a rare treat and in the mind of this reader, absolutely not to be missed.

A great big thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an ARC of this book. All thoughts created are my own.


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