Review: The Crane Wife

Title: The Crane Wife Image

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: George Duncan is an American living and working in London.  At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes.  All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice.  But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound—a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden.  When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself.  It has been shot through the wing with an arrow.  Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird’s wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books—a harmless, personal hobby—when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in.  Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork.  George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her.   She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

Review: In the midst of a reader’s block, The Crane Wife arrived to me via the library at precisely the right time. This book was something different — through the use of magical realism a story is told about love to include all of its beauty and fury. It raises the question of kindness and the power it has to inspire great loyalty; it paints the struggle and peace that can be reached when forgiveness is granted or received.

The Crane Wife is a well-known Japanese folktale, and Patrick Ness effortlessly weaves pieces of that tale into his modern-day plot. To read or even know the origin story is not necessary since Ness has so articulately conveyed the thoughts, emotions, and actions of his characters. The overall effect is something that is difficult to put into words. I can simply say that this book made me feel due to its exquisite dialogue and internal thoughts.

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