One night George is woken by a keening he can’t identify. He heads out into his back garden and sees that a great white crane has landed. It’s in distress having been shot through the wing with an arrow. George helps the bird and is unexpectedly moved by the experience and from that moment his life is transformed. The next day the enigmatic Kumiko walks into his printing shop with a collection of picture tiles she wishes him to copy. She is dressed in white and wears a red hat in a way that reminds George of the crane. George and Kumiko fall in love and together create art that becomes an overnight sensation.
This story of the crane wife is based on a Japanese folk tale told to Ness by his kindergarten teacher when he was only five years old. Ness has taken the story to its extreme adapting it to his own purposes and in the process has created a magical, mystical tale of love and its power to both redeem and consume; written in beautiful prose it’s a pure delight. George and Kumiko are surrounded by a fabulous cast of memorable characters: Amanda, George’s often foul mouthed daughter who yearns for her French ex-husband and father of her only child; George’s assistant the Turkish Mehmet whose skills in customer service aren’t always what they could be; Amanda’s friends, Rachel and Mei, although only having bit parts are still alive and vibrant and utterly fun and threading through the narrative in an alternate story the crane and the volcano who pitch against each other in a game of love and forgiveness. But it’s George and Kumiko who leave the greatest impression and linger in the mind long after the story is over. It’s their story that will make you want to grasp with both hands any and every opportunity that life presents. It’s their story that transforms this novel into a rare and delicate work of elegance.
Any Cop?: The Crane Wife will leave you moved and possibly in tears. The writing is sharp and funny, beautiful and ephemeral. It’s a book about stories and love, art and beauty told in an unexpectedly moving way; it will carry you up on the wings of the crane marvelling at the beauty to be found in being human.