This is the first novel by the novelist Max Porter, who was recently nominated for the Booker Prize for his second novel Lanny. I thought he should have made the short list and displaced at least one of the winners. Anyway, this book has some similarities to that book in that it’s quite short (around 100 pages) and involves some elements of magical realism or fantasy or at least a quite pronounced metaphorical element, and multiple narrative voices.
You can gather from the title that we are dealing with a book about grieving. One of our narrators is a husband and father in his 30s or 40s who is grieving his wife, who has died from a sudden accident. He’s finding it near impossible to process her death, be present for his sons, or to be remotely productive (he’s a scholar studying and working on a book on Ted Hughes). Another narrative voice is that of one his sons who spends his narration watching and trying to figure out what is happening with his father. And we get the voice of grief itself, portrayed here as a bird that flits and pecks and returns and pesters the main narrator.
It’s certainly hard to call a book like this charming, but it is in its way. I don’t think it ultimately is as well conceived or polished as Lanny, which is able to marry the technical prowess of the writing to the emotional depths of its subject, but this one does take those plunges with moderate success.