The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays

Christina Joyce Hauser

The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays
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The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays

Christina Joyce Hauser

Ten days after calling off her wedding, CJ Hauser went on an expedition to study the whooping crane. After a week wading through the gulf, she realised she had almost signed up to live somebody else’s life.

In this intimate, frank and funny memoir in essays, CJ Hauser releases herself from her story of ‘how life was supposed to be’. She goes looking for more honest ways of living, for new definitions of love. She kisses internet strangers, officiates a wedding, visits a fertility clinic. She rereads Rebecca in the house her new boyfriend shared with his ex-wife and rewinds Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story to ask whether you can ever have a fresh start with an old love. She writes about friends and lovers and blood family and chosen family and children and animals and ghosts and a whole planet in this book, and hopes you see all of these as love stories.

The Crane Wife is a book for anyone whose life doesn’t look the way they thought it would; for anyone learning to find joy in the unexpected; for anyone trying, if sometimes failing, to build a new sort of life story, a new sort of family, a new sort of home, to live in.


When C.J. Hauser’s personal essay ‘The Crane Wife’ was first published in The Paris Review in 2019, it quickly became a viral sensation. This essay charts Hauser’s research trip to monitor whooping cranes on the gulf coast of Texas, only 10 days after calling off her engagement. A wryly funny and moving testament to the ways we understand ourselves when we stop shaping our desires for the benefit of other people, the essay resonated with so many readers around the world, sparking a publishing bidding war for Hauser’s first nonfiction collection.

Hauser describes her collection, which is also titled The Crane Wife, as a ‘memoir in essays’. She’s deeply interested in the narratives of a life: the stories we’re handed down about what a full life should look like versus the messier reality. This collection intimately explores that complex space between the limits of Hasuer’s own expectations and the richer life she found when she started prioritising her own needs.

These deeply personal essays are smart, vulnerable, funny and cleverly constructed. Wide-ranging in both form and tone, they cover both Hauser’s life and other things she’s obsessed with. The subject matter ranges from favourite movies such as The Philadelphia Story, to AI technology, to a literary analysis of Rebecca, to the nuances of Tinder small talk. The balance between personal anecdote and cultural critique is carefully and cleverly executed – Hauser is incredibly skilled at braiding the two narrative threads, and the result is generous, captivating and challenging to read.

Fans of Hauser’s viral essay will be pleased to read an extended version in this collection but rest assured that The Crane Wife is far more than the sum of its parts. This is a celebration of love, and a fresh and thrilling read for anyone interested in how to tell the stories of a life in imaginative and heartfelt new ways.

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