In this memoir-in-essays, Hauser releases herself from traditional narratives of happiness and goes looking for ways of living that leave room for the unexpected, making plenty of mistakes along the way. She kisses Internet strangers and officiates at a wedding. She rereads Rebecca in the house her boyfriend once shared with his ex-wife and rewinds Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story to learn how not to lose yourself in a relationship. She thinks about Florence Nightingale at a robot convention and grief at John Belushi's rock and roll gravesite, and the difference between those stories we're asked to hold versus those we choose to carry. She writes about friends and lovers, blood family and chosen family, and asks what more expansive definitions of love might offer us all.
That’s what makes this book both universal and exciting. It’s about the breaking of habits, about consciously developing agency over one’s own fate, and about the relief, wonder and even joy that might follow that grief ... Hauser builds her 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. As she travels back and forth through personal history, she strings scenes together without excessive connective tissue ... She trusts us to follow along and get the gist ... A delightfully wide assortment of literary and cultural digressions enrich Hauser’s musings, making her book a lot of fun in a brainy, melancholic way ... The stories may be different for each of us, but the patterns reveal what we have in common as human beings. What a vital sense of connection both writer and reader get out of the experience ... 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?'
17 brilliant pieces ... This tumbling, in and out of love, structures the collection ... Calling Hauser 'honest' and 'vulnerable' feels inadequate. She embraces and even celebrates her flaws, and she revels in being a provocateur ... It is an irony that Hauser, a strong, smart, capable woman, relates to the crane wife’s contortions. She felt helpless in her own romantic relationship. I don’t have one female friend who has not felt some version of this, but putting it into words is risky ... this collection is not about neat, happy endings. It’s a constant search for self-discovery ... Much has been written on the themes Hauser excavates here, yet her perspective is singular, startlingly so. Many narratives still position finding the perfect match as a measure of whether we’ve led successful lives. The Crane Wife dispenses with that. For that reason, Hauser’s worldview feels fresh and even radical.
The grief essay is, or perhaps ought to be, a genre unto itself. Getting it right appears to involve an alchemy that braids personal loss with metaphorical — and often quotidian — parallels, all in gorgeous prose. Bonus points for leavening the pain with a bit humor. Hauser’s story of calling off her marriage to her cheating, gaslighting fiance, then finding grace while studying the whooping crane off the Gulf Coast of Texas, hit all of these notes ... Hauser is a playful, energetic and always likable writer, and to ask whether the rest of the collection rises to the level of the title essay is possibly the wrong question ... While the cumulative effect of reading these essays in succession is ultimately affecting, along the way it sometimes feels disjointed ... This is less a criticism than an existential question about the nature of essay collections: Are they meant to be read sequentially, or are they more like a restaurant menu ... Hauser...sets her own rules, both in the personal and narrative sense ... With its frank explorations of sexuality, grief and other intimate subjects, this book might not be for everyone. (It includes a detailed trigger warning.) Yet I kept thinking about all of the people in my life into whose hands I can’t wait to put The Crane Wife.