George is your typical loser. He’s divorced, though he has a child (who’s in her 20s) and can’t seem to make a relationship work. Even though he’s the owner of a print shop, he’s a a pushover and his one employee, Mehmet, takes advantage of that. And so — because he’s nice, because he’s George — when a crane with an arrow piercing its wing unexpectedly lands in his suburban London backyard in the middle of the night, he helps it out.
The next day, a woman named Kumiko shows up in George’s print shop. And suddenly, George’s life — and the life of his daughter, Amanda — is irrevocably changed.
Before I go much further, I need to say that this is a fairy tale. But, it’s a very charming, sweet, wonderful fairy tale. Ness divides the book among George, Amanda, and Kumiko’s tales, but he does so in a way that doesn’t feel awkward or forced. But, like so many other things in this book, it’s not just a one-dimensional fairy tale. Art (in this case, paper cuttings) and a Japanese-inspired tale within a tale play major roles, giving the book depth and substance.
What I most enjoyed was Ness’s use of language, such as how one of his characters, Rachel (who is very confused and not at all nice), speaks entirely in questions. Or the way he uses “…” to represent silence. Or the way George and Amanda think of themselves. And descriptive sentences like “He loved physical books with the same avidity other people loved horses or wine or prog rock.” (60) or “Stories do not explain. They seem to, but all they provide is a starting point. A story never ends at the end.” (141-142) or “She stopped, her face scrunching up in some really, really unattractive crying.” (161)
It did all the things I want a book to do: it gave me characters to care about, and transported me away from the dreary winter months. It delighted me and made me wish I was even a tiny bit artistic.
Rated: High, for multiple f-bombs (a couple characters have a tendency to swear) and other language, some off-screen sex.