The Crane Husband

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom) in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
Synopsis: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon

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Why did I choose to read this book?

The truth of the matter is that (1) I was drawn in by the cover, (2) I kept seeing it on several “most anticipated” lists, and (3) I was interested in a story about kids who have to endure messy parents (or parent, in this case). I found out later that it was also very short, and I could stand to read a few short books amongst all my giant fantasy tomes.

What is this book about?

A family lives on a farm that has been taken over by a corporation, so they can’t use the fields and only live in the farmhouse and the barn. There are two children, their mom, and until recently their dad, who dies of cancer. Apparently the mom brings lots of guys home and the kids know not to expect too much, that each phase will pass, but one day she come sauntering home with a man-sized crane: long legs, sharp beak, feathers and all but with a hat, shoes and spectacles too. It doesn’t seem like the crane will leave, and the kids have to figure out what to do.

What is notable about this story?

There is a crane. In this house. With this family. It transforms back and forth from man to crane and leaves feathers EVERYWHERE. When I tell you that I would have taken a baseball bat to that thing while it was a bird I am telling you the truth.

This story does not have a happy ending, it has a realistic ending.

It’s a very quick read, and not just because it’s short. The writing will keep you in suspense, keep you coming back for more to find out what happens next.

It’s fair to say that Barnhill depicts the extreme version of living for yourself, to the detriment of everyone around you. I’m all for having boundaries and taking time for yourself, especially so you don’t lose who you are after having kids, but if you DO have kids you have to do the bare minimum: feed them, clothe them, make sure they are safe and that they get an education. That’s what you agree to when you have kids. This could act as a cautionary tale for women who may not want to give up their creativity or work in favor of kids, maybe? That you have a responsibility to others as well as yourself if there are children in your charge? I don’t think we’re supposed to identify with the mom in this story, and in a world of feminist stories, this book sticks out as a sore thumb of obligation.

Was anything not so great?

I do not understand what was going on with the mom in this story. There is the myth of the crane wife who flies away as soon as the children are grown enough to take care of themselves, but since the dad dies early the wife ends up trapped with the kids. I think that the crane man is trying to help her learn how to turn into a crane so she can fly away like the farm women before her, but I’m not entirely sure. I felt like when the story ended, I hadn’t gone anywhere, and if it hadn’t been such a fast read I would have felt like I had wasted my time reading it.

What’s the verdict?

4 stars on Goodreads, but with the caution that it might be triggering for you if you had a less than stellar childhood. It’s a fast, compelling read that will leave you with more questions than answers. An excellent book for a seminar in women’s studies – you’ll get a very heated discussion!