From the old shopping bag she unsheathed the dead crow and turned it in what little sunshine strained through the fibrous clouds. The black feathers sparkled in the light, and close inspection revealed iridescent blues and purples. She covered it back up with a tan cloth and, with the draped bird lying breast down on her two upturned palms, stepped gingerly onto a patch of grass. She tore the linen away and unveiled the corpse to the gray heavens.
There was nothing at first, just an empty sky. Then, a caw. A crow appeared on a nearby power line. Then another caw and another crow. Suddenly crows flew in from all directions. Their plaintive entreaties soon combined into a chorus. New arrivals joined what quickly grew into a cacophonous dervish of black silhouettes swirling directly above Swift.
It was like sorcery. Conjuring dozens of birds from thin air by simply removing fabric from a body.
Florida represents so much that’s good, bad and bizarre about the United States, all rolled into one long state. It’s where all of our sins go to be washed away by the ocean: drugs, shady real estate developers, and the Palm Beach County man who, in 2012, ate so many cockroaches and worms in a bug-eating contest (the prize was an ivory-ball python) that he vomited, collapsed and died.
It’s filled with beauty and contradictions. Legend tells us Ponce de León ended up sailing to somewhere near Melbourne Beach in his search for the Fountain of Youth, and grandparents go there to live out their golden years. It’s the setting for movies like “Moonlight,” and fiction by Elmore Leonard and Karen Russell and Laura van den Berg. It’s mysterious and beautiful, spooky and exciting. And yes, it’s weird.
To being with the obvious question: Does the world need a more or less 800-page book on food phobias? Beats me. But the answer is in any case moot because, despite his subtitle, Alexander Theroux has written something rather different, more interesting and grander than that.
But Godwin is playing a longer, cleverer, more ambitious game. The author of numerous novels, short stories and works of nonfiction, now approaching 80, she remains a forensically skillful examiner of her characters’ motives, thoughts and behavior. “Grief Cottage” revisits some of her favorite themes — fractured families, parentless children, the initial shock and long-term repercussions of death and disappearance, how the future can run off course in a flash — to make the very good point that it doesn’t require a ghost to haunt a life.