Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Cranes Dance

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
4/5 stars
Vintage Contemporaries, 2012
383 pages
Adult Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book caught me completely by surprise. Although I requested it based on the mention of ballet (hope of backstage dramatics and meltdowns) and the fact that the sister-sister relationship is integral, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. That sounds kind of negative but I did find this compulsively readable and I feel like it reached me just like I wanted it to.

The book opens with professional ballet dancer Kate Crane, describing the plot of one of the most famous ballets, Swan Lake, and hurting her neck. Although Kate is not the star, she is a soloist in the ballet company and continues the season while her sister Gwen sits out at their parents' home in the Midwest. The book covers the arrival of the sisters in New York City (separately but always linked), the progression of their careers as younger sister Gwen eclipses Kate, and the season when they are separated. I don't want to share too much about the plot because I feel like this touches on some of the important themes and because I feel like the journey through the book is important. I had no idea what to expect and I wouldn't want to spoil that for you.

I would have to say that my desire for a dance story was amply satisfied. There are many many scenes of Kate rehearsing and performing as well as backstage intrigue and ballet plot summaries. I ate up all of these bits and found it immensely enjoyable. I would be interested to know what dancers think of those scenes as I have no idea about their accuracy.

As for the sisters, they are separated both by distance and sentiment. I am an older sister and I do tend to identify with the older sibling in a situation so I'm glad that is who is the narrator in this book. Kate is wracked with guilt and Gwen is struggling with her own longstanding issues, which lead to her not speaking with her older sister. Although my relationship with my sister is nothing like the one in this book, I still strongly identified with Kate and how she felt in any given situation. This book is narrated in first person so that helps with identification but I think I was primed to feel for Kate especially as we reach the penultimate chapter.

I don't know how I feel about the finale, which does provide a hopeful future without neatly wrapping everything up. I kind of wonder how I would have felt about the book without that conclusion as I'm not sure it was necessary.

Overall: I found this book very pleasing in the two areas I was most interested in: dance and sisters. But it also gave me more in regards to character and writing style. If you are interested in branching out to adult books, put this on your list!

Dumb moment for me: Toward the end of the book, a character shares a story and I thought I had figured out where the book got its name. Well, that may be a reason but if you read my earlier paragraphs carefully, you may have noticed that the sisters' last name is Crane and they are dancers, which is a much more obvious explanation of the cover. I just did not figure it out!

Content warning: This is an adult book with language, drugs, and sexual references. I know some of my readers avoid books like that but if it doesn't bother you, I would definitely recommend you consider this book.

Cover: Not really to my taste-while you can see the thin straps from their leotards, I would have liked a cover that showed the ballet aspect more as well as the entire heads of the ladies.


  1. i've never heard of this title but it does sound interesting. i might recommend it to my sister as she likes books with dancing in them.

    Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks

  2. That's great that this one lived up to your expectations and then some! I don't read adult contemporaries often but sometimes it's nice to read about people that could be real. I mean, when I read adult they are usually urban fantasy or something. Not sure this is for me but now that I've seen it and heard a bit then I might pick it up if I see it at the library in the future.

  3. This is a new read to me. I love what you said about figuring out the title - it's one of those ah-hah moments that you just have to laugh at!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake


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