I have no idea why I haven’t picked up this gorgeous little book sooner. It’s the story of a young dad with two boys who loses their wife and mother in a freak accident. As they struggle to digest the loss, enter Crow, a giant black eyed, yes, crow, who stirs up everything, who pecks and shits and who refuses to leave or to be ignored, just like grief itself. Crow, a potent symbol in Ted Hughes’s poems (the dad is a Hughes scholar), is here to stay – ‘I won’t leave until you don’t need me any more’ – but as time moves on, straight-talking Crow becomes less of a nuisance, more of a therapist, helping them overcome their loss. Rarely have I seen grief been described more lyrically.
Your heart aches for the little family, the two grieving boys whose only outlet is to fight, jump, or shout and the father struggling to move on – ‘Every time I sit down and look at my notes Crow appears in my office.’ Porter himself lost his mum at a young age and it’s evident that he knows what he’s talking about.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers is experimentally structured with a mixture of little vignettes and poem like passages narrated in turn by the boys, the Crow and the dad. If that’s not your kind of thing, do buy this as an audio book, as I did. Jot Davies’ animated narration ties the pieces together to create a beautifully flowing story. As it turned out, I also bought the hard copy. This little gem was too good not to have on my shelf.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers is published by Faber & Faber, 114 pages