Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Each year the Palomas and Corbeaus clash in the town of Almendro. As touring troupes, each family puts on a unique show. The Palomas captivate their audiences with underwater performances as otherworldly mermaids while the Corbeaus use their tightroping skills to impress the crowd as tree-leaping fairies. Lace Paloma dreams of being in the forefront of her family’s traveling show, but when she is caught in the aftermath of a local accident, all her plans are derailed. Making matters worse is the mark her rescuer, Cluck Corbeau, leaves on her arm, a feather imprint marking her as cursed. Forsaken by her family for carrying the mark of the Corbeaus, Lace reaches out to Cluck in hopes that he can purge her of the scar. Instead, Lace discovers that both families have been caught in a rivalry built on terrible secrets.
“They all wore tails bright as tissue paper flowers. Butter yellow. Aqua and teal. The orange of cherry brandy roses. The flick of their fins looked like hard candy skipping across the lake.”
Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers is the kind of book you can lose yourself in. Its beautiful imagery immediate sets the stage for the reader to fall in love with the magic of the Palomas and Corbeaus. But unlike the audience in one of these families’ shows, the novel gives readers a look behind the scenes. Despite the undeniable beauty the Palomas and Corbeaus offer the world, the family dynamics within each are complicated, messy, and often destructive. Lace’s family is led by her abuela: her grandmother is harsh in her judgments and unyielding when it comes to how she sees the world. Just as stubborn is Cluck’s mother, Nicole Corbeau, whose words are law among the Corbeaus, and whose approval is stringently given. For all their history, the Palomas and the Corbeaus know very little about each other’s family. Their inability to let go of their hatred and the superstitions they hold against one another have done more harm than the tragedy that began their conflict.
Lace and Cluck come from two different worlds, one grew up in the water while the other spent his childhood reaching for the sky. Neither sees the cage their own family has built around them. Lace has only ever dreamed of being a part of the sirenas, never realizing she has other options, that the world has something else to offer her. Cluck has spent his whole life as an outsider, the lesser of his mother’s two sons. He’s dreamt of leaving his family, of finding someplace permanent for him and his grandfather, but without action, his plans remain a dream. Rejected by their families in different ways, Lace and Cluck find the kind of acceptance neither of their family’s were able to offer them in each other.
The Weight of Feathers is beautifully written, exploring themes of love and acceptance, with sympathetic characters trying to overcome the mistakes of their families.