In her dreams, she flies.
This is the second Patrick Ness novel I have read on this year’s Cannonball and on the strength of those, well, I want to read everything he ever publishes. The Crane Wife marks his first foray into writing for actual adults rather than young adults and so it’s a natural jumping off point to use a Japanese folk tale relayed to him by his teacher when Ness was just five years old.
Though as Ness points out in his acknowledgments, the original folk tale of the crane wife may have inspired him (and many others, not least The Decemberists), bears no resemblance to his own The Crane Wife. This is the story of George Duncan, a decent and ordinary man who is woken one night by a crane plummeting into his back garden with an arrow through its wing. George nurses the crane back to health and it flies away. The day after that extraordinary event, the beautiful and enigmatic Kumiko walks into his life. Kumiko has a story to tell George….
The key to telling a story as outlandish as this and making it work is verisimilitude. And here is where Ness really truly excels. The supporting cast of characters are all fully fleshed out, as well as given arcs of their own to draw you in. George’s frankly awesome daughter Amanda is the standout, but everyone gets their moment in the sun. The minutiae of their daily lives is told with as much investment as the main story of George and Kumiko.
And what a story it is. To say too much would be ruinous to anyone who wants to read this delightful, warm, charming, joyous novel. If you want to spend 320 pages having a smile put on your face (with more than a few laugh out loud moments), marvelling at the use of simile and then getting your heart broken, this is the book for you. It might also make you want to listen to The Decemberists. So it’s a win/win.