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The Crane Husband, by Kelly Barnhill

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I know the author from On Here and from being very local.

This is an amazing novella, and if it had been any longer than a novella it might have been so intense as to be unbearable. It’s the story of a teenage girl who is used to being the responsible party for her widowed artist mother and her six-year-old brother. She’s done the books for her mother’s business since her dad died six years ago, arranged for meals, gotten her brother dressed and to school on time.

But one night her mother brings home a crane. A taller-than-human, spectacle-wearing bird. Neighborhood frogs are not safe from his long, sharp beak…and neither is her mother. The longer the crane husband stays, the more wounds her mother bears–and the more she seems to slip away from ordinary human concerns. That includes her children.

So yeah, major, major content warnings for abusive relationships and child neglect here. And for feelings of helplessness and rage. Because that’s what this story is about, about neglect and abuse and bewildered love and being powerless to help one person you love most–and determined to help another. It’s also about art and modern (future?) rural life. There’s so much packed into this novella, and it will leave you reeling in the best possible way.

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