Raven Girl

by Audrey Niffenegger

Hardcover, 80 pages, Harry N Abrams Inc, List Price: $19.95 | purchase

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Title
Raven Girl
Author
Audrey Niffenegger

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NPR Summary

A postman and a raven fall in love in this illustrated book for adults.

Read an excerpt of this book

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Raven Girl

Audrey Niffenegger/Abrams ComicArts

Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven.

The Postman lived on the edge of a flat, desolate suburb. When he looked to the west he could see the skyscrapers of the city of which his suburb was the outermost appendage. When he looked east he saw flat, bare land that stretched away from his home until it met the cliffs that stood over even starker, more desolate places.

His house was very small. There were no trees around it and no birds. Once in a while a rabbit came by and ate all the strawberries in his little garden.

The Postman had been a postman for quite a few years. He was no longer a young and ardent postman; he thought he had seen just about everything Her Majesty's Postal Service could offer in the way of danger and difficulty, hilarity and boredom. He yearned to have an adventure, but he suspected that he probably wouldn't. Every day he sorted his mail and put it in his sack and walked his round. Then he went home, had his tea, watched TV, and fell asleep on the sofa. He sometimes had nightmares that featured e-mail.

On a particularly rainy Monday morning in April, the Postman was sorting mail when he found a letter with an address he had never seen before. The letter was stamped Special Delivery. It was addressed in an elegant hand that suggested it might have been mailed in a previous century.

Dripping Rock, Ravens' Nest
2 Flat Drab Manor
East Underwhelm, Otherworld
EE1 LH9

EE1 LH9? The postcode made no sense. The letter had gone astray. He brought it to his supervisor, a venerable lady who had been with the Postal Service since before the invention of the penny post. She examined the address closely, raising and lowering her spectacles several times to inspect it. She handed it back to the Postman.

"East of East, Lower Heights," she told him. "It is, I'm afraid, on your walk."

"How odd," replied the Postman. "I never had a letter to deliver there before." He felt as one does when dreaming about familiar houses with sudden strange rooms discovered in unlikely places. It was as though he had found a train station attached to his kitchen.

"They don't receive much mail," his supervisor admitted. The return address merely said Pinfeathers, West Farther, which didn't illuminate the situation.

Audrey Niffenegger/Abrams ComicArts

"Well," said the Postman. He finished sorting his mail and put it in his sack. He walked his round. The weather got a bit brighter. The Postman thought, It's not a bad day for a long walk. He felt a slight thrill at the prospect of a new address.

He set out for East of East, Lower Heights. It lay in the direction of his home, and he passed the tiny house with a pang. As he walked, he whistled. Once in a while something whistled back. There must be birds, but where? Things were moving at the edge of his vision. Spring was trying to come even to these flat places, and the Postman began to see heather and trees in the distance. The bird sounds became louder, surrounding him, but still he saw no birds.

After two hours of uneventful walking he came to the cliffs. He looked for a house but saw none; there were only the cliffs and the flatlands. He looked up, thinking that perhaps the house was on top of the cliffs. But all he saw was an enormous nest, tucked onto a ledge on the side of a cliff. He looked at the address on the envelope: Dripping Rock, Ravens' Nest. The rocks were somewhat drippy, and the nest was certainly big enough to accommodate ravens.

"Hello?" said the Postman. He could hear squabbling coming from the nest. He stood beneath it, unsure if it would be a good idea to attract attention to himself.

Just then he heard a little squawk. He looked down and saw a fledgling raven huddled at his feet. She raised her head and opened her beak, as though soundlessly imploring him. The din from the nest was louder now. He propped the letter at the base of the cliff and bent over the Raven. She shook her wings and looked at him with curiosity.

"Are you broken?" he asked her. She didn't understand; she had fallen out of the nest, but she wasn't broken. She was just resting and wondering how she might get back up and into the nest. She had also been wondering when her parents would return and what they would bring her for dinner.

Audrey Niffenegger/Abrams ComicArts

Her brothers yelled at her from the nest. They made unflattering comments about the Postman, whom they mistook for a cat; none of them had seen a person before, and cats featured in all the scary stories their parents told them at bedtime. Cats are not to be trusted! Cats will pounce on you and eat you!

Watch out! her brothers yelled. They beat their wings and made terrible noises, but none of them flew down to help her: They couldn't fly yet.

The Raven was frightened.

The cat, or whatever it was, loomed over her and looked interested. The Raven closed her eyes and prepared to be eaten.

The Postman misinterpreted this. "Oh, dear," he said. He thought the Raven looked ill. He picked her up. Her heart was beating very fast. He wrapped her in his scarf and began the long walk home, the Raven trembling in his arms.

When the Raven's parents returned to the nest they asked, "Where is your sister?" Her brothers said, "She fell out of the nest, and a cat found her and took her away." The parents were grieved and puzzled by this, and they searched for the Raven for a long time. Whenever they saw a cat, they asked it where their daughter was, but all the cats swore they didn't know, which only confirmed the perfidiousness of cats.

Audrey Niffenegger /Abrams ComicArts

From Raven Girl, written and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger. Copyright Abrams ComicArts, 2013. Excerpted by permission of Abrams ComicArts.