Book Review: Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

Friday, 3 March 2017

grief is the thing with feathers book

I think about death a lot. That's an odd statement to start a blog post with - I get that. And I also don't mean it to sound half as emo as it does. So let me explain. I'm actually quite terrified of dying. I mean - it's not the actual dying part which scares me, it's more the fact that we all have to do it. You spend 90 years on earth (if you're lucky enough to get that long) forming relationships and friendships, creating things and experiencing moments and then poof. It's all over. One minute you're a living, breathing, over thinking human, and the next... you're not. What's even more terrifying to me than that is the idea of losing my loved ones. It's terrifying and something which we all have to go through in life, which is partly why my most recent read, Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers, really hits home.

It's not often that a book makes me cry while I'm reading it (which is weird, because pretty much EVERYTHING else makes me cry). I can't even remember the last book which made me shed a tear. I feel like it was probably the last few pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So when I put down Grief is the Thing with Feathers after finishing it's final page, I was more than a little bit surprised when I started weeping. Full on, painful sobs. At only 114 pages long and only a handful of delicately selected words per page, Grief is the Thing with Feathers didn't take me very long to get through. But it made me feel more than books triple it's length have ever managed. Every single page left my heart feeling twisted. As if somebody had put their hand inside my stomach and mixed it about a little, leaving me with the uncomfortable, familiar feeling of loss. For anybody who has ever experienced grief, this book will be a hard read, but a cathartic one.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers recounts the story of a man and his two sons who are grieving the loss of his wife and their mother. But the three are not alone in this journey. They are joined by a Ted Hughes inspired Crow who acts as a therapist, a guide, a babysitter, a trickster and a healer. Together, these four characters tell the story and recount their various levels of grief and coping. What we get from this is a very disjointed portrayal of the loss of a life, and how it can affect those closest.

I adored Grief is the Thing with Feathers. The way it was written was like nothing else I've ever read. It was poetic, playful, dark and twisted, all at once. It was an essay on grief, disjointed by memory and broken apart by magic. For me, it was like reading a tribute to a lost loved one. The small, disjointed bits of story all slowly start to come together to paint us a picture of the lost mother, so we feel as though we know her without ever meeting her.

This book may not help you get over any feelings of grief you've ever had. It's not a cathartic self-help book. It's a showcase of the chaos of loss. One which is completely worth the read.

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