Summary and book reviews of Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu

Song of the Crow

By Layne Maheu

Song of the Crow
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2006,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: May 2007,
    244 pages.

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Book Summary

From the moment that he looks down on the ancient gray head of Noah, who is swinging his stone axe, the narrating crow in this unique and remarkable epic knows that these creators called Man are trouble. He senses, too, that the natural order of things is about to change.

At a time when so many of us are searching for meaning, Layne Maheu’s debut novel lingers in a masterfully rendered ancient world just long enough to ponder our fears of disaster and to watch as humanity struggles to survive, to understand, and finally to prevail.

Recalling both the magical imagination of Richard Adams’s Watership Down and the spiritual richness of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, Song of the Crow is a soaring debut.

Song of the Crow

Prologue

A big black bird is making the most gawdawful racket, for no apparent reason, caw caw caw!!! his entire body bouncing upward with each caw. Perhaps he is singing.
—Ben Jacklet, "Crow Mysteries"

Happy Noah, singing Noah, eager to do God’s bidding without a single drop from the sky. There’s the story of his miraculous birth, that he came into the world already circumcised, with a full head of hair all long and silver and already combed, and at the age of three could stand and deliver speeches on the virtues of his all-powerful moral authority in the sky. But if it were true, that he was born with the pale signs of Misfortune already sprouting from his head, he wouldn’t boast, not even at the age of three, because it is a wellspring of sadness that grows there, and to carry it around with you always is a burden no one would wish for.

How would I know? And why was I summoned to keep an eye on this...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do you remember the creation stories of your religious or cultural upbringing, or from school?  What are they and how do they compare to Maheu’s version of things in Song of the Crow?
  2. What other books and stories have you read or movies have you seen that use animals as characters?  To what extent do they seem like they are anthropomorphized (given human characteristics, behavior, and language)?  What examples have you read wherein different animals seem to be chosen to represent certain types of people, or human behavior, such as the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm?
  3. Have you read or seen books, stories, or movies that are more like what Maheu was trying to ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

A meditation on man's place in the universe; think Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets The Red Tent, with shades of Watership Down.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (358 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Phil Bevis, Arundel Books
A cross between the Magical Realism of Garcia Marquez, Ted Hughes, and Roger Tory Petersen, Song of the Crow is an astounding first novel. I believe that this book marks the start of a great literary career. Although the concept of a novel about crows may seem odd, I think that this book will be one of the great handsells of 2006….Our #1 new literary pick for 2006.

Author Blurb Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South
Beautifully written and artfully imagined.

Publisher's Weekly

Maheu's fable works beautifully, probing the relationship between creatures of the heavens and those of the underworld.

Library Journal

Starred Review. After reading this remarkable book, you will marvel at every crow you see along the side of the road and maybe even begin to listen to their songs. Highly recommended for all collections.

The Bloomsbury Review

Maheu's canny and skillful marshaling of folklore, scripture, myth and literary reference provides scaffolding for events before, during, and after The Flood as experienced by a creature who, frequently airborne, enjoys excellent points of vantage.

Seattle Times

[R]etells ancient Deluge legends in a crow's voice: raucous and Rabelaisian, yet lyrical, and at times sweetly tender.

January Magazine

[F]ascinating….Maheu’s novel breathes fresh life into a Biblical tale which has become so bland and sanitized that Noah and his ark are most commonly found these days as bedspreads and wallpaper designs in nurseries. Maheu saves Noah from a needlepoint-and-animal-cracker fate and forces us to see what is probably the world's most catastrophic event with a new understanding and appreciation…Nearly every anthropomorphic tale in the past 30 years owes more than a passing nod of debt to Richard Adams' Watership Down. Song of the Crow is no different; but Maheu's novel holds up to the comparison. The bird, who eventually becomes a stowaway on the ark, is as real and compelling to us as Adams' talking rabbits were to readers 30 years ago….Maheu brings global destruction down to a personal, tragic level with an admirable economy of words….crackle[s] with suspense….fresh and compelling.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

No need to spend a long time pondering which book is this summer’s most inventive; hands-down champ is this knockout debut by a Seattle carpenter. Maheu has crafted a remarkable retelling of the Noah saga from the perspective of, believe it or not, a crow who witnesses the unfolding drama. This is far more than a lit gimmick; this richly imagined novel delivers an important parable for today from a startlingly fresh perspective.

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Beyond the Book

When asked why he wrote Song of the Crow, Layne Maheu replies, "One of my imaginary selves has always been a biologist. Perhaps in a former lifetime I was a nineteenth century naturalist. The closest I’d ever come to realizing that fantasy, though, is by bird watching.  Quickly I found that merely seeing and identifying bird species was only a part of it. I was interested in bird behavior. So, I looked over the bookstore shelves...

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