Award-winning YA author Ness (More than This, 2013, etc.) moves to literary fiction with a tale that unfolds after an arrow-pierced crane lands in a London garden.
George Duncan hears a wild keening and stumbles into his frigid garden to find the injured crane. George pulls the arrow from the crane’s wing. The bird flies away. Thus begins a meditation on love—for George, for his broken daughter, Amanda, and for mysterious Kumiko, who arrives at George’s print shop the next day. There’s symbolism here, with the narrative interspersed with Ness' reinterpretation of a Japanese folk tale about a woman born of clouds and a raging volcano. That tale becomes an allegory running parallel to the earth-bound story of love that fractures the heart and then remakes the soul. George has dabbled with artistic cuttings, forming images from discarded book pages. When Kumiko sees one, she asks to meld it into her art, abstract figures formed from feathers. The result stuns. Every cutting produced thereafter becomes the target of frenzied collectors. George is bemused. Kumiko, a mystery, cares not at all. George wants to possess her, to know her every secret. George is adrift, an American expat out of sync, divorced yet attached to his former wife, inept, too open, too giving in love, but George holds the story’s center, and raging around him is single-mother Amanda, unsettled after "two and a half decades of false starts." Other characters—Rachel, Amanda’s tightly wound co-worker; Mehmet, George’s fey shop assistant; Henri, Amanda’s ex-husband—are each "a fellow traveller across that baffling, hostile landscape" of life and love. Mired in neediness, George, knight errant, cannot grasp the truth of love or of Kumiko, ethereal queen, as she appears in reality, and in perception and memory, as lover and savior of George and Amanda in an amorphous denouement.
A magical realist meditation on how to love and be possessed by love.