The Crane Husband

- Kelly Barnhill


“Mothers fly away like migrating birds. This is why farmers have daughters.”

A fifteen-year-old teenager is the backbone of her small Midwestern family, budgeting the household finances and raising her younger brother while her mom, a talented artist, weaves beautiful tapestries. For six years, it’s been just the three of them—her mom has brought home guests at times, but none have ever stayed.

Yet when her mom brings home a six-foot tall crane with a menacing air, the girl is powerless to prevent her mom letting the intruder into her heart, and her children’s lives. Utterly enchanted and numb to his sharp edges, her mom abandons the world around her to weave the masterpiece the crane demands.



The crane came in through the front door like he owned the place.


* Thanks to NetGalley and Tordotcom for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. *

almost perfect:

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.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

See All Reviews   |   Quotes   |   Sort Reviews By:    # of Pages   |   Author [ Name | Gender | Nationality ]   |   DNF   |   Genre   |   Rating   |   Series   |   Title   |   Year Published


Like this:

Like Loading...