A compassionate and deeply moving novel about change, honesty and relationships, The Lost Language of Cranes is set in the rapidly gentrifying urban landscape of 1980s New York. In its pages we meet Philip, a 25-year old man working in publishing, who falls in love with another man and feels he must finally come out to his parents. This crisis is reflected in his parents’ lives; they are faced with the possibility of losing their home at the same time as Owen, Philip’s father, is wrestling with his own sexuality.
“He yawned, closed his eyes. Philip stared at the ceiling. What was his motive in telling his parents, he wondered, when for years he had so successfully avoided this confrontation? Was it for them that he wanted to make this revelation, because they deserved to know the truth? Or was it for himself, as Eliot had suggested, to relieve himself at last of the burden of secrecy? It didn’t seem to him there was anything wrong with that. Anyway he had Eliot now. He could show his parents Eliiot, scion of Derek Moulthorp, and then how could they say he was throwing his life away? How could they argue he was making a mistake, damning himself to a life of eternal solitude? He wanted to stick Eliot in front of their distracted faces the way he used to stick finger paintings and cookie-dough Santa Clauses – only now they couldn’t turn away from him, they couldn’t absently say, ‘How nice.’ They would have to pay attention.” (80 – 81)
Writing Prompt 1
The scene in which Philip comes out to his parents is the novel’s turning point. Imagine yourself in scene like this and rewrite the exchange. How would you have responded: the same? Differently? How might your response affect the outcome of the scene and your subsequent relationship with your son or daughter?
Writing Prompt 2
One of The Lost Language of Crane’s major themes is keeping secrets and how doing so affects our lives. Write out a short scene in which you tell a friend one of your secrets; what happens because of your choice? Do you feel that sharing your secret was the right thing to do?
Writing Prompt 3
Owen, Philip’s father, is a married man who has long struggled with his own gay desires. Write a short alternative version of a similar man’s life, one in which accepts his sexuality and lives a gay life. What would he have gained from that choice? What would he have lost?
400 to 700 words