The Weight of Feathers

weight of feathers

The Weight of Feathers
Anna-Marie McLemore
St. Martin’s Griffin
September 2015
Read for The 2016 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge
William C. Morris Honor

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Almendro where we lay our scene…

Like the Montagues and Capulets or the Hadfields and McCoys, the Corbeaus and the Palomas are two feuding families in very close proximity, jockeying for turf and fighting with each other over tragedies that happened before some of them were even born. Every summer the Corbeaus and the Palomas, both nomadic families of performers, cross paths in Almendro and old grudges flair. The Palomas cost the Corbeau’s grandfather his steady job (the only one in the family) at the nearby chemical plant; the Corbeaus killed a Paloma uncle; the Palomas ruined the forest where the Corbeaus perform; a Corbeau raped a Paloma, etc., etc. The children of these families have been raised to hate each other through these stories and through family lore about black magic. One summer when a disaster strikes Almendro, two of the children – Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau – are unexpectedly thrown together, not realizing who the other is. Lace is kicked out of her family for fraternizing with a Corbeau, and in an effort to reverse some perceived black magic while also keeping her identity secret, Lace ends up working for the Corbeaus and, of course, falling in love with Cluck who is also an outcast in his own family. Everyone in this book has a secret and they surface one by one as Cluck and Lace navigate their own romance under the shadow of their families’ history.

While the comparison to Romeo and Juliet is an obvious one, it turns out the feuding families and star-crossed lovers are the end of that comparison. The Weight of Feathers is neither as tragic nor as straight-forward as Romeo and Juliet. The families’ performances – the Corbeaus do a kind of tight-rope walking act in trees while wearing wings and posing as fairies and the Palomas’s show is their daughters pretending to be mermaids in the lake – the belief in black magic and the supernatural, and the unusual birthmarks that run in both families give the story a dark, whimsical quality. The writing is a little melodramatic for my taste, particularly the passages that build up Lace and Cluck’s relationship. And those names. I didn’t think this was possible, but I also felt like the writing was overly sensory. Everyone and everything smells or tastes or feels like something – sometimes like multiple things – all the time. It started to feel like there was never an interaction where people simply see and hear each other and then move on. Sensory descriptions are necessary in creative writing but in this case it was so over the top to the point of being distracting.

I’m begging you to read this book as an e-book with translation available. There are French and Spanish phrases throughout and very few of them are translated in the text. If I had not been reading in the Kindle app, it would have driven me crazy! That being said, I enjoyed testing out my high school Spanish and French and seeing how much I could remember on my own.

Read Alikes

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
Swamplandia by Karen Russell

One thought on “The Weight of Feathers

  1. I saw the author highlighted in another blog and definitely have my eye on this book. I’ll certainly buy it in the news few months.

    I speak Spanish and understand rudimentary French, so I hope the foreign language phrases aren’t a problem for me.

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