The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

5 stars Fiction Fantasy

I was totally sucked into this short book as a fifteen-year-old girl and her brother, Michael dealt with their mother and The Crane.  I thought at first that The Crane was a metaphor for something else; perhaps a tall person, or someone who tried to take over (casted shadows over them) but when I started reading about wings and feathers and how this bird “nipped the well behind her collarbone, making a bright spot of blood,” I was startled! Their mom was in love with a bird!  How can someone, a human, actually have a relationship with a crane?  Was she seriously going to continue with this relationship?

The crane wore a hat, shoes, spectacles and he was holding his broken arm which had been tended to by their mother, when she introduced him to her children. Their mother was an artist, so usual behaviors around the house are not that uncommon but this Crane was pushing the limit.  The Crane made himself right at home, at their house.  Their mother seemed so calm about this new arrangement, yet the children were far from recognizing that this new male in the home, would now be their new father.  The children didn’t want another father and they definitely didn’t want the Crane to fill that position.  The Crane and mother were inseparable and the feathers were flying, literally.  Mother tries to cover up her bruises and deep cuts, but they’re seen.  She calls them paper cuts when her daughter draws attention to them and tries to dodge the conversation.  Mother has her blinders on but her children see everything that’s happening.  As the daughter tells me stories of their families past, I see mother’s relationship with her husband when he was still alive and what their family was like.

As an artist, mother’s studio was out in the barn.  Like now, there were days that mother would vanish inside the barn all day.  As a weaver, mother’s work was considered magical as she created pictures and stories at her loom where she worked weaving a variety of items into her prints.  It’s a good thing that the siblings have a strong, supportive relationship with one another because when their mother would get wrapped up inside her work, everything else seizes to exist around her.  Like before, mother is spending most of her time out in her studio.  Mother’s obsession is twofold: her work and The Crane.  As mother and the Crane disappear into the studio, the children must tend to themselves. 

Imagine what it would be like to have a crane come into your home.  His body size, his appetite, and his behavior are just a few of the things that you’d have to consider.  The Crane brought with him some brand new issues and considerations that would otherwise seem strange and unnecessary to their home which the children noticed.  The children wanted him gone but their determined mother said he was staying.  How would this book play out?  I had to know why?  Why him? Why a Crane?  Why was she working so secretly in her studio?  Why would she do this to her children?  A great book that fascinated me and kept me captivated until I closed the last page.  5 stars.