An Old Story Newly Woven: Announcing The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

Tordotcom Publishing is excited to announce that Jonathan Strahan has acquired The Crane Husband—a contemporary novella-length retelling of “The Crane Wife” set in the rural American Midwest—by Newbery Award-winning author Kelly Barnhill. The deal for World English Rights was brokered by Steven Malk at Writers House.

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

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

Yet when her mother brings home a six-foot tall crane with an unnerving, menacing air, she lets him into her heart, and her children’s lives. Utterly enchanted and numb to his sharp edges, she abandons the world around her to weave the masterpiece the crane demands.

All mothers leave the farm, eventually. In this stunning contemporary retelling of “The Crane Wife” by the author of the Newbery Award-winning novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a fiercely pragmatic teen forced to grow up faster than was fair will do whatever it takes to protect her family—and change the story.

Said author Kelly Barnhill:

This story is quite possibly the darkest, weirdest, most unsettling little beastie that I’ve ever written, and I’m beyond thrilled to be working with the good people at Tordotcom to send it into the world.

I wrote the majority of The Crane Husband while jostling about in an elderly RV. It was the summer of 2020, the pandemic continued to rage, so we had purchased the giant, ramshackle vehicle as a means by which we could move safely across the country. As we drove past farms in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, I was struck by the number of collapsing farmhouses that we drove by, remnants from another time, before small family farms became swallowed by giant operations. One in particular caught my eye – on the roof, stood a tall, gangly bird – a crane. Its beak was tipped slightly skyward, and it puffed up its feathers.

I’m not sure how that fellow transmuted into the unpleasant crane in my story—it was unkind of me, really. I do know that I had been haunted – as many of us were—by thoughts of dislocation and dissolution, of the wages of sin and the persistence of trauma, and connection as an antidote to despair. The story asserted itself over the next two weeks, hard and sharp and dangerous. I hope people are moved by it. I know I was.

Said editor Jonathan Strahan:

Kelly Barnhill is the kind of writer you dream about working with if you’re an editor. I fell in love with Newbery Medal winner The Girl Who Drank Down the Moon, a rich, magical novel that I find myself returning to over and over. Once I started reading Kelly’s short fiction I knew I had to work with her so, about three years ago, I reached out to see if she might write a novella for Tordotcom. And then, nine months into the pandemic, just before Christmas, Kelly wrote saying she’d just finished this novella called The Crane Husband and would I like to see it? I can’t say I was expecting the remarkable, dark, powerful story Kelly had told, but I fell in love with it immediately, and I think readers will too.

Kelly Barnhill is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, two novellas and several short stories. She is the recipient of the John Newbery Medal, the World Fantasy Award, and was a finalist for the Audre Norton Award.

The Crane Husband will arrive from Tordotcom Publishing in Winter 2023.

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