I seem to be into modern retellings of old tales, lately. "The Crane Wife" is Ness' take on an ancient Japanese fable. George Duncan - middle aged, divorced, nice, and utterly bland - wakes one night to find a crane in his backyard, an arrow through her wing. He removes the arrow and the crane flies off; the dreamlike quality of the event seems confirmed by his rather abrasive daughter Amanda, who insists it was just a dream, until an equally dreamlike woman, Kumiko, enters his print shop and changes his life. As for herself, Amanda - 25, divorced, filled with love for her young son and incapable of keeping a friend for more than a few months - struggles to understand why she seems capable of only loving with hatred and violence.
It's a tale beautifully told, and also really quite funny at times. I was unprepared for how funny the book would be, as the cover and plot all lean towards the decidedly melancholy, but the humor rested easily alongside the serious, reminding us that life is not always one thing or another.