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THE CRANE HUSBAND by Kelly Barnhill
The crane came in through the front door like he owned the place. So begins The Crane Husband, an astonishing blend of traditional fable, brutal realism and warm-hearted bildungsroman. Drawing from and subverting the classic Japanese tale, Tsuru Nyōbō (The Crane Wife), it is narrated by an unnamed fifteen year old girl who is surprised by the sudden arrival of her mother’s new boyfriend, a giant crane. He is awkward and, perhaps unintentionally, violent. As the house fills with feathers and blood, the girl realises she must act to save her family.
As with all great fables, The Crane Husband is rich with meaning. Behind the charm of its magical realist facade is a confronting engagement with family violence, grief and the confusion of adolescence in the wake of a parent’s death. Yet Barnhill imbues even the most difficult aspects with a sense of wonder - from the absent mother who disappears into her ‘magical’ art, to the strange drones that have taken over the family farm, to the shape-shifting crane’s increasingly coercive control - making for a book that might seem bleak but is as delightful as it is disturbing.
The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill
Tor Publishing, 2023