Sixteen-year-old Lace has grown up traveling with her family, the Palomas, who put on “mermaid” shows, with the young women wearing tails they make themselves, in small bodies of water around central California.
Cluck, as everyone in his extended clan refers to him, has grown up in a similar situation with his family, the Corbeaus, who wear wings that Cluck helps to make and stage shows in the branches of trees.
For 20 years, the families have been not only rivals, but bitter enemies. They each tell tales of how the other clan was responsible for the sinking of trees into a lake in the small Central Valley town of Almendro, which resulted in a family death for each, and swear just touching the skin of the other clan will harm/curse them in some way.
When tragedy strikes Almendro, where both families are once again doing shows, Lace and Cluck are thrown together. Thanks to a combination of what happens to her on the night of the tragedy and the superstitions of her family, Lace feels compelled to spend time with the Corbeaus (they don’t know she’s a Paloma). There, she observes how ostracized Cluck is by the Corbeaus, even by his own mother and brother, and she starts to feel sympathy — and more — for him.
Of course, this Romeo-and-Juliet tale offers much in the way of danger for both young people, and it seems impossible that either they or their families could find happiness and a fresh start with the weight of the past lying on their shoulders.
The prose in The Weight of Feathers is just so, so lovely, and the writing is so masterful it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. It’s gotten some hype, and it actually lives up to it.
An entertaining bonus for me was that it’s set in the Central Valley of California, where I live (it even mentions my town and others in my county). It was funny to me because it was hard at first to picture magical realism in this currently drought-stricken area but I got into the swing of it.
Rated: Moderate, for some moderate language peppered throughout, some episodes of violence, and a scene where the female protagonist swims without a top.