Cover Image: The Crane Husband

The Crane Husband

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Member Reviews

Stunning writing, but of a weird story.

<blockquote> She had never hesitated when bringing guests over before. Granted: this was her first crane. </blockquote>

i absolutely loved the writing!
it was descriptive but not over the top or getting to lyrical that it didn’t make any sense anymore.
it was just so beautiful to read!
how it described moments, situations and feelings? stunning!

You’ll learn that you’re safest around the people you mistrust and dislike. Your guard is up, you see? The more you love someone, the more dangerous to you they become. The more you love someone, the more willing you are to show them your throat. </blockquote>

the plot and characters as well as the setting was all a bit strange.
A weird mixture of dystopian futuristic sci-fi mixed with magical realism but all in a setting that if it wouldn’t have drones and cameras mentioned a lot i would have placed the descriptions of some things into historical times instead of futuristic ones… but i guess in some ways that does make sense in a lot of ways as well with how the future is looking in real life.

<blockquote> My mother, in all aspects of her life, was a hungry person. Curious and eager. A whirlwind of making and being and motion. The lifelessness that overtook her face from time to time felt so unnatural, so improbable, that it was easy to tell myself that it couldn’t have happened at all. </blockquote>

still the mix of everything that was happening was a bit much for me - maybe because magical realism sadly never fully works for me since i just keep questioning the whys and how’s and they never get explained. but that’s a personal issue and i do think that this book will find a large audience that enjoys the book because of its mixture of genres and making it all somehow work.

<blockquote>from the time of its founding on forward, it has remained fixed in place, like a butterfly pinned to a board, left under glass for so long that eventually it becomes no more than husk and faded color and collapsing dust. </blockquote>

the length of this book was perfect as well.
i have to say that i was a bit skeptical if it a story like this could really be told and make sense in under 200 pages but it does and it works.

and i do think that the authors writing does most of the work for it to work as well as it does.

it gives so much with surprisingly few actual words somehow it manages to sometimes tell an entire setting or part of a story in one sentence!

<blockquote>“On the farm,” she said quietly, “mothers fly away like migrating birds. And fathers die too young. This is why farmers have daughters. To keep things going in the meantime, until it’s our time to grow wings. Go soaring away across the sky.” </blockquote>

sure the story could have given a bit more detail - especially about how the kids grew up and why they did in that way but at the same time that wasn’t what the story was about so it was fine that it didn’t go into details about that.

all in all i really enjoyed this even if i found and am still finding some parts of this novella very strange and would have loved the get more explanation.

but it’s defiantly on of the most beautifully written pieces i have read in a while and that in itself was a wonderful experience.

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This story was both harrowing and beautiful. Barnhill is a master at weaving stories that feel classical and reminiscent of the fairytales we grew up with, while also bringing her own touch to the genre. The Crane Husband is a delicious if unnerving modern fable..

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A strange and captivating little novel about a teenage girl trying to take care of her younger brother and the house, while their mother is either working on her art or being abused by her crane lover. Magical, disturbing, emotional, futuristic--such a cool mix of genres.

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The Crane Husband is a novella that retells the Japanese myth Tsuru Nyōbō (The Crane Wife). As with any tale, there are numerous variations, yet the basic premise is that a farmer marries a woman who weaves beautiful tapestries that make him rich. The farmer is never satisfied, even as his wife wastes away from his work and he remains unaware that she is really a crane, not a human.

Barnhill transports this tale into a modern setting while upholding the believability of a woman dating a literal crane. In this version, the protagonist is an unnamed fifteen-year-old girl who must care for her younger brother while her mom, an eccentric artist, grows increasingly infatuated with the menacing crane she brings home and increasingly neglectful of her children’s wellbeing.

To an average reader, the discussion of domestic violence is evident from the start, though the protagonist takes a while to come to terms with her family’s situation. As a result, the plot can feel a bit slow, though I welcomed the time spent on the girl’s daily struggles and the utter strangeness of her lifestyle. Barnhill delves into the nuances of depression, physical and emotional abuse, automation, and even the flaws of the foster care system through a mature but innocent lens. Combined with rich, magic-infused language, The Crane Husband is a dark delight.

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I really wanted to love this story since I loved The Girl Who Drank the Moon. However, this was a very weird story. It was also very confusing. I could not get into the characters, especially the narrator’s mother. Still, it had gorgeous prose. I will recommend this for fans of folklore!

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Unfortunately, The Crane Husband was not the book for me. Nothing particularly wrong with it, but when reading magically ambiguous stories, I want the overall tone and writing to match that vibe as well, and this book is very straightforward in the way it presents its story. I’m sure many would enjoy and even prefer that, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Thank you to Tor Books and Netgalley for an advanced cult in exchange for an honest review.

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4.5 stars

While I did look up "The Crane Wife" before starting The Crane Husband, it’s certainly not required; several iterations of the story are told at one point during the narrative for anyone who may not know it. I found The Crane Husband to be a haunting retelling of this Japanese folklore.

The Crane Husband works well on several levels. You can take it at face value and appreciate it as much as others who may dig deeper for metaphors. Either way, there are elements of abuse and desperation that are hard to ignore. It doesn’t matter how strong or self-sufficient you are; it’s not easy to watch someone you care about withdraw from the world and stop taking care of themself.

"She looked at me. Her eyes were strange to me then. Hollow. And I was so young, much younger than I let myself believe. I didn't have the context. And I couldn't possibly understand. Looking back on it now, I recognize those eyes. I've seen those same eyes on different women in the years since - my girlfriends, my roommates, my coworkers. I saw them on a neighbor once, before I called the cops on her husband. I myself have had those eyes. But only once. She blinked. The hollowness remained. I shivered. I didn't know what I was seeing."

Besides being beautifully told, there are not many good moments here; there are certainly no happily-ever-afters or ‘it’ll all work out in the end’. Regardless, it’s beautifully told, and I enjoyed how fluid time felt. Our narrator describes memories from the past while providing future context. This world feels both modern and futuristic, recognisable and advanced, and it feels like the story could be set in any country.

The Crane Husband makes more of an impact than the low page count would suggest. A full story is told with complex characters in a detailed world. I took a few days to consider before writing my review, and despite having read a few other books, my mind keeps returning to this one. I want to tease out the story and figure out how different choices would lead to different endings. The Crane Husband goes beyond a simple gender-swapped retelling and creates something with harrowing beauty that would stand on its own.

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I really liked the story, but I didn't fall in love with the characters enough to truly love it or get invested.

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The Crane Husband was a wild ride of a book. It was short but packed a punch. I'm not sure if I "got" all of the philosophy in the book, but the crane lover and the child abandonment were clear.

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Thank you to the publish and Netgalley for a copy of this book.

First thing that I though when I finished this was: What did I just read??

This a great blend of horror and fantasy about children having to protect themselves from their mother's new, abusive crane lover. This is about domestic violence and its effects. What hit the hardest was the child neglect taking place. Like how could this mother????

Rating 4/5

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I'm sure readers are touched by the simplicity, yet the power of expression the author brought in this novel. For me, the simplest way to put it is that the book in its entirety fell flat for me. Didn't connect with the storyline, or the characters. Everything felt all over the place. I liked the potential of the story, and it kills me, but I am sorry to say I will not be recommending this one to my publisher.

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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this advance copy in exchange for honest feedback. This book is a gorgeous retelling of "The Crane Wife"

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I love a quirky little book. If you are like me - and you enjoy stories that make you ask, “What did I just read?!” - then pick up a copy of Kelly Barnhill’s The Crane Husband.

Writing a review for this book is a challenge. I know I liked it. I’m not sure I understood it.

A widowed mother of two brings home a new lover - a crane she calls Father. Who is this creature with leering eyes? Why is the mother so devoted to him that she neglects herself and her children? What are they doing inside the locked art studio?

The story reads like a nightmarish fable of generational trauma. Included are themes of motherhood, abandonment, transformation, and the magic of art.

A fable, by definition, ends with a lesson. But if The Crane Husband has a lesson, I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m continuing to ponder how all the themes and imagery weave together. Are they parts of a whole? Or do they just swirl around each other in a dance?

Forgive my rambling. I’ve become trapped in a philosophical rabbit hole.

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This novella, and its short at only at 128 pages for the hardback copy, was due to be published at the end of February. I don't know if that was the U.S. date or if its just been delayed but its now showing as April 11th, on Amazon UK anyway.

Nevertheless, whenever it is released, it will be taking up a space on my bookshelf because its absolutely amazing!

A re-imagining of the Japanese folk tale The Crane Wife (which I had not heard of at all) The Crane Husband is a lyrical, beautifully written allegory, with a desperate and depressing narrative that shows a life of neglect, obsession, domestic violence and the damage of generational trauma from the point of view of a 15 year old girl, forced to grow up far too early in order to protect her younger sibling.

It's bleak, but it's hauntingly beautiful, wonderfully written and a stark reminder of the issues that lie behind closed doors and shape lives.

Star Rating: 4.75 rounded up

Many thanks to the author, Macmillan-TOR and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

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DNF. A book about a woman banging a crane man should be interesting in theory. In actuality, this is a boring and underhwhelming story with mediocre prose.

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⁉️Give me a WEIRD book rec. You know, that book that left you like “wtf,” but you think you actually sort of loved?
That was this for me.

The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill
Published: Feb 28, 2023 (OUT NOW)
128 pages (SO SHORT 🤩)
Thanks @tordotcompub and @netgalley for the e-ARC

So, if you’re new here, I want to let you know I feel no obligation to post a positive review of an ARC.

This little novella, a retelling of The Crane Wife (which I went down a rabbit hole reading about after I finished this), was so bizarre and equally impactful. I finished it in a couple of hours, and it wasn’t just the length that had me speeding through it. There are so many little bits to this story to piece together as you go. Someone who is really into drawing meaning from a story would have a field day with this one.

There is this unnamed 15 year old girl who has taken on the responsibility of caring for her home and raising her little brother (6) while her mom (a widowed artist), brings men into their home, usually not for long. That is, until the crane (or is he a man?) comes along leaving his feathers all around. Desperate to keep the state out of their situation, the teenage girl covers for her mom as she holes away with the crane, retreating into herself, becoming smaller and inaccessible to her kids.

The women in the family are known to transform into birds and fly away while their kids are young, and we see that this mother is tethered to the spot (maybe unwillingly, due to circumstance) and we’re left hoping that her daughter doesn’t follow the same path as what is rumored to have become of the other women in their family around town (sex, drugs, etc.)

This was an eerie delight to read, and I’ll likely revisit it.


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I absolutely adore Kelly Barnhill's books and The Crane Husband was no exception. You would think that such a short book wouldn't have been as amazing as it was but damn...this book. Kelly Barnhill is MAGIC with words, thoughtful with character development, and genius with plot. I'm literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the next masterpiece.

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Any fan of Barnhill will instantly recognize her adult writing style that we got a taste of in When Women Were Dragons. She always manages to write about current issues in a magical realism way that also has you feeling like you are in a fairytale. Rurals areas will especially recognize the context clues in this retelling. A shorter read but did not leave you feeling unfinished. It had just enough to make you feel satisfied but also with a little uncertainty to make you think.

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Written with the Japanese folk tale of the Crane Wife in mind, this author skillfully weaves themes of domestic violence in this dark work. Excellent and recommended reading.

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This novella is told from the perspective of an unnamed teenage girl, who is trying to take care of her little brother since her dad is dead and her mom is an artist who is kind of checked out. Then one day her mom brings home someone new and tells the kids that it’s their new father - but he’s a giant crane (literally).

This was a quick read and well-written, but I must admit I didn’t really get it. Is it supposed to be a retelling of the Japanese folklore tale The Crane Wife which I must admit I wasn’t familiar with? Is it meant to be metaphorical, and if so, of what? I really don’t know. Looking forward to a book group discussion in a few days because maybe someone can explain it to me. 😂

Kelly Barnhill’s book from last year When Women Were Dragons was a 5 star, top ten book of the year for me, so sorry to say this one was just middling for me.

3.5 stars

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