Title: Grief Is the Thing with Feathers
Genre: Fable/Essay/Novella (Magical Realism?)
Ratings: Violence—1; Sensuality—1; Humor—1.5
> Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award
> Winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize
> One of the Irish Times’s Best Books of 2015
> One of the Independent’s Best Debut Fiction Books of 2015
> A Spectator UK Best Book of 2015
Porter substitutes grief for hope, but keeps the feathers—long black ones that come from a gigantic, introspective, wise-cracking crow who might be a psychotic delusion or perhaps just a metaphor come to life to ease a grief-stricken family through the difficult days, and then years, following the sudden death of Mum, the young wife and mother of the household.
In addition to the Dickinson connection, the book has a number of references to Ted Hughes, about whom Dad is writing a book. Hughes famously wrote an entire book of poems featuring Crow, themythological trickster (Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow).
When Crow shows up on the family's doorstep one dark and frigid night, Dad opens the door only to be swept up in "a feathery hammock lifting me up a foot above the tiled floor. One shiny jet-black eye as big as my face, blinking slowly, in a leathery wrinkled socket…And this is what he said: I won't leave until you don't need me any more." Dad lays back, "resigned, and wished my wife wasn't dead. I wished I wasn't lying terrified in a giant bird embrace in my hallway…Hello Crow, I said. Good to finally meetyou...For the first time in days I slept."
Even though the theme of the book is grief, there are many moments of jet-black humor, frequently from Crow, but also from Dad and the Boys. When a friend asks Dad, "Are you seeing anyone?…To talk things through?," Dad nearly laughs out loud as he thinks about Crow muttering and puttering about the apartment handing out
advice and leaving a feathery trail. Dad suppresses a smile and tells his friend, "Yes…You don't need to worry. I am being helped."
Dad: "Did I respond as well as you'd hoped?"
Crow: "Better. But the credit should go to the boys, and to the [publishing] deadline. I knew that by the time you sent your publisher your final draft my work would be done."
Dad: "I would be done grieving?"
Crow: "No, not at all. You were done being hopeless. Grieving is something you're still doing, and something you don't need a crow for…It is the fabric of selfhood, and beautifully chaotic."