Review – Grief is the Thing with Feathers | Max Porter


  • Title: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
  • Author: Max Porter
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Release Date: September 17th 2015
  • Pages: 114


In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

In this extraordinary debut – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter’s compassion and bravura style combine to dazzling effect. Full of unexpected humour and profound emotional truth, Grief is the Thing with Feathers marks the arrival of a thrilling new talent.

“I saw my best friend cry over her dead dad.”

“I lost my own sister 2 years back.”

“I lost my close uncle yesterday.”

“I lost my twin brother 4 years ago. He died because of kidney failure. He was a fighter.” 

Grief is inevitable. The above are real stories from my own bookish friends. We’ve all gone through grief at least once in our lives. Question is, how do we heal?

My biggest worry right now is screwing up this review BECAUSE I NEED ALL OF YOU TO READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW AND PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THI- okay, you get the picture.

This book is by far the most unique book I have ever read so trust me, you need to read it as soon as you can. You need to read it at least once in your life. But once you do, you need to read it again, and again, and again.

When you’re happy,

When you’re sad,

When you want to make your next hour magical and consuming; in a train on the way to work, while waiting for your loved one to finish with their shopping, or just well – whenever.

Just please, just – read it.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers is story on how a crow helps two young boys and their father recover from their mother’s recent death and threatens to stay until the moment the family no longer needs him. Why a crow? The writer feels very strongly for this bird and believes that it acts as a good intermediary to bring the boys and their father together during this tough time. To help them cope and heal; a strong and bold symbol of hope. The story is not fluffy and full of sunshine – if that’s your idea of a book which can help you feel better. It’s raw yet hopeful. It’s truthful and convincing. Pages and pages of unexpected sadness, and cold, hard truths, but beyond that you will find humour, good memories and a breath of fresh air.

“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project.”

Ironically, this story is very short – literally bite-sized, but it’s jam-packed with original and elegant prose entwined together.

The young boys are fragile. The father is putting up a strong front, but he is weak inside. You will see through all their insecurities, their thought process, their nightmares; even the crow’s. You will find comprehension questions at one point, and then suddenly come across funny sentence structures. It’s messed up and human. It’s a true reflection of grief. You will feel their sadness and struggles. You will be immensely consumed.

“the boys shouted


and their voice was the life and song of their mother.”

I love this book even more because words matter to the writer. While many authors seem to focus more on the overall story (in my opinion), I really appreciate it when more thought is put into stringing good sentences. When writing is done right, it really shows. So much beauty in the story, exactly what you’ll find in Grief is the Thing with Feathers. Not just words which are nicely printed on paper, but words which actually feel good in your head.

“Again. I beg everything again.”

It swallows you whole from the very beginning into a world you’ve never quite been before. It’s loud, it’s daring, it’s confident. It’s full of crazy words, and even crazier sentences; and will make you think – how did one piece it all together and still made sense? It will make you question all your earlier reading choices – I need to find more books like this. 

“Unfinished. Beautiful. Everything.”

This is the kind of book I would bring along a Dead Poets Society meeting. I have found it O Captain, my Captain! I will certainly treasure this work of art forever.


I would like to thank Faber & Faber for this wonderful review copy in exchange for my honest review!


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