The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays (Hardcover)
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A memoir in essays that expands on the viral sensation “The Crane Wife” with a frank and funny look at love, intimacy, and self in the twenty-first century. From friends and lovers to blood family and chosen family, this “elegant masterpiece” (Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Hunger) asks what more expansive definitions of love might offer us all.
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: TIME, THE GUARDIAN, GARDEN & GUN
"Hauser builds their life's inventory out of deconstructed personal narratives, resulting in a reading experience that's rich like a complicated dessert—not for wolfing down but for savoring in small bites." —The New York Times
“Clever, heartfelt, and wrenching.”
Ten days after calling off their wedding, CJ Hauser went on an expedition to Texas to study the whooping crane. After a week wading through the gulf, they realized they'd almost signed up to live someone else's life.
What if you released yourself from traditional narratives of happiness? What if you looked for ways to leave room for the unexpected? In Hauser’s case, this meant dissecting pop culture touchstone, from The Philadelphia Story to The X Files, to learn how not to lose yourself in a relationship. They attended a robot convention, contemplated grief at John Belushi’s gravesite, and officiated a wedding. Most importantly, they mapped the difference between the stories we’re asked to hold versus those we choose to carry.
Told with the late-night barstool directness of your wisest, most bighearted friend, The Crane Wife is a book for everyone whose path doesn't look the way they thought it would; for everyone learning to find joy in the not-knowing and to build a new sort of life story, a new sort of family, a new sort of home to live in.
About the Author
CJ HAUSER teaches creative writing at Colgate University. They are the author of two novels, Family of Origin and The From-Aways. In 2019 they published “The Crane Wife” in The Paris Review, which reached more than a million readers all over the world. This is their first work of nonfiction.
A Guardian Best Book of the Year • One of TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year • One of Garden & Gun’s Best Southern Books of the Year
A Most Anticipated Book: TIME, Good Morning America, LitHub, BookRiot, The Rumpus, Texas Monthly, The Independent, & more
Lambda Literary Award Finalist
"There's more to this memoir in essays than breakups and so much more to the book than the essay that started it all. An intellectually vigorous and emotionally resonant account of how a self gets created over time, The Crane Wife will satisfy and inspire anyone who has ever asked, 'How did I get here, and what happens now?'...Hauser builds their life's inventory out of deconstructed personal narratives, resulting in a reading experience that's rich like a complicated dessert—not for wolfing down but for savoring in small bites."
—New York Times, Mary Laura Philpott
“A frank exploration of intimacy and romance that doesn’t always lead to a ‘happily ever after’...Hauser is a playful, energetic and always likable writer...I kept thinking about all of the people in my life into whose hands I can’t wait to put The Crane Wife.”
"Hauser...weav[es] together a memoir about redefining love and living life outside of traditional boundaries."
"Brilliant...This collection is not about neat, happy endings. It’s a constant search for self-discovery...Hauser’s worldview feels fresh and even radical."
“After reading this forthcoming memoir-in-essays by the warm, wise, wry, and wonderful CJ Hauser. . . you’ll have to go fix your face. Were you crying laughing or just crying? Both? Splash some cold water on your cheeks. That’s it. Now, go forth in peace with a new understanding of what it means to live and love.”
—Garden & Gun
“A lovely memoir in essays. . . [The Crane Wife is] about what we need, what we can survive with, what we deny ourselves while lying to ourselves. And it’s no surprise to learn that the entire memoir is as outstanding as that initial essay. . . The writing is elegant, airy, precise. The author has a really compelling voice. . . I highly urge you to add it to your to-read list if you enjoy the title essay.”
—Roxane Gay, The Roxane Gay Agenda
"Reading The Crane Wife is a bit like following Hauser into the Mirror Maze, their voice as narrator guiding the way through and out. Whether writing about familial or cultural stories, each text becomes a mirror in which Hauser sees themself reflected back. And in their willingness to turn inward, to truly face themself, Hauser’s essays open outward, becoming themselves mirrors into which readers might gaze.”
"While it’s always difficult to summarize an essay collection, what holds The Crane Wife together is Hauser’s unpacking of emotional truths: who do we love, and why, and what happens when they’re gone? When we’re alone? When we forget what it was like to love them?”
"Hauser takes the reader along on a soulful journey of self-discovery as they bring together smart, astute observations on modern love and life...The essays in this volume offer a fascinating blend of relationships and breakups, colorful family stories, and cultural and literary influences. In fluid prose, they pursue more fulfilling ways to find happiness...What a pleasure it is be in the company of this writer. With clear eyes and an open heart, they find their way and discover that unmasking mistakes and vulnerabilities is one way of being strong.”
“Hauser is excellent at capturing the weird, beautiful essence of life...The Crane Wife is full of fascinating, vividly drawn characters...Hauser’s writing has a genuine warmth and kindness that is entertaining and engaging in equal measure.”
“[The Crane Wife] explores love’s many forms with frank, raw honesty, charting an artful path through one person's experiences...Hauser’s wry, introspective investigation of their assumptions about love will likely free readers to examine their own personal narratives as well...‘The rare happy ending I appreciate is one that makes room for the whole painful fact of the world at the same time it offers the reader some joy,’ they write. The Crane Wife embraces this philosophy again and again as Hauser excavates their past loves and losses, thoughtfully examines them and declares the pain of love to be worth the risk.”
"In The Crane Wife, Hauser undertakes a new way for them to tell stories from their life, playing with history and personal history, exploring the possible hidden truths in their family's past and their own. The result is like interconnected short stories but about their life, the person they are and were, maybe even the person they never knew themself to be. Funny, exciting, vulnerable—truly visionary."
—Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and Queen of the Night
"The Crane Wife is about is the power of stories: The ones we are told versus the ones we tell ourselves; how they shape and misshape our expectations; how those stories can both affirm our instincts and estrange us from our deepest yearnings, sometimes at the same time. CJ Hauser is an old soul with a fresh perspective and an energetic, wandering mind."
—Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun and former New York Times opinion columnist
“Y’all. Read the whole thing. It’s damn good.”
—Aminatou Sow, co-author of Big Friendship
"The Crane Wife more than delivers on the immense promise of the viral essay that served as its source. My goodness is it funny, but also so devastatingly honest and bracing. Reading it is like taking a long road trip with your wisest, sharpest friend and talking the entire way."
—R. Eric Thomas, author of Here for It
"CJ Hauser's The Crane Wife is a masterful work of art that sets the high water mark for what an essay collection can accomplish. Hauser takes the big questions of their life—death, motherhood, heartbreak—and spins them into something totally unexpected and altogether sparkling. These essays will shatter your heart and then stitch it back together again."
—Isaac Fitzgerald, author of Dirtbag, Massachusetts
"About halfway through the collection, I started sending out you-have-to-read-this-book bat signals to friends. Yes, for the wit, yes, for the humor, but also the candidness, the self-awareness, the time it resembled not a book, but a mirror in which I briefly glimpsed myself...This is a book that understands me. This is a book that tickles the part of my brain that recalls who I wanted to be and considers how close or how far it is from who I am now. The writing is cunning, the perspective is refreshing, and it is deeply funny and true."
—Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky
"The Crane Wife is brilliant and beautiful—the vulnerability of their viral essay is expanded to include immense humor, pondering and further misadventures of the heart. An absolute must-read. I will be gifting this book all year long."
—Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face
“In this perceptive and probing work, [Hauser] brilliantly parses the myths that shaped their understanding of love...A thrillingly original deconstruction of desire and its many configurations.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] lively, thoughtful, and often funny set of personal essays...[Hauser] makes a welcome effort to talk about both love and culture in unconventional ways...A smart, inviting, and candid clutch of self-assessments.”
“[A] staccato, funny, barbed, metaphor-laced, and thought-provoking memoir-in-essays...[Hauser is] a threshing critic...No matter their focus, Hauser's deductions about human nature are always arresting, delving, fresh, and exhilarating.”
"Hauser’s wisdom radiated out of their viral Paris Review essay, which resonated with more than a million readers. What could be better than a whole book made of that same elegant, precise and perceptive stuff?"
"[Hauser's] wide-ranging and widely anticipated memoir–cum–essay collection...reflect[s] their determination to look for the unexpected and avoid accepted narratives of happiness."
“Perceptive and witty...A principal pleasure of [Hauser’s] first work of nonfiction is the fact that they're ‘a kind of joyful sponge for the affectations and interest of the people I love.'...For readers, Hauser’s agony is, if not ecstasy, then enchanting.”
"Rehab for road-weary romantics...Ultimately these essays throw open the windows, inviting us to redefine what constitutes a love story."
"Brilliantly idiosyncratic. It’s funny, beautiful and strange."
—The Independent (UK)
"The bingeable essay collection...Smart, poignant stories spanning love, live--and moving on when neither go to plan. All threaded with snort-out-loud wisdoms."
—Grazia Magazine (UK)
"Intimate, witty and beautifully crafted."
"The Crane Wife will make you think, laugh, cry and keep turning the pages."
—Red Magazine (UK)
"[A] luminous collection...Brimming with insight and compassion, this is ideal for anyone looking to embrace the unexpected."
—Woman's Own Magazine (UK)
"If you ever ask yourself why you fell for, left, stayed too long, chose badly, questioned your instinct, then this blazingly clever memoir will be a revelation…this is a near-genius look at the search for love."
—Sainsbury’s Magazine (UK)
—The Bookseller (UK)
"What a collection it is: intimate, wry, compassionate, filled with imaginative connections drawn between art and life...‘Invigorating, vulnerable, generous, it is a liberation."
—The Irish Mail on Sunday