Spotlight: Fox & I

I want to spotlight a book that publishes next week (July 6). Fox & I is a memoir that I look forward to reading this summer.

Description:

A wild fox befriends a solitary woman at her home in Montana, and their relationship transforms them both in this inspiring, surprising, and often funny memoir. Both a new window onto the natural world and the introduction of a remarkable literary talent.

Catherine Raven left home at 15, fleeing an abusive, disdainful father and an indifferent mother. More at home in nature than among people, she worked for many years as a National Parks ranger, eventually earning a Ph.D. in biology while working as a janitor and living in her car (which lacked a reverse gear) or on abandoned construction sites. She built a house on an isolated plot of land in Montana, teaching remotely and leading field courses in the National Parks. One day, she realized that the mangy-looking fox who had been appearing on her property was now showing up every day at 4:15, positioning himself near a lone forget-me-not near the house. She had never had a regular visitor before. How do you even talk to a fox? One day she brought out her camping chair, sat as near to him as she dared, and began reading to him from The Little Prince. Her scientific training had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, but as she grew to know him, his personality revealed itself—and he became her friend. But friends cannot always save each other from the uncontained forces of nature. Fox and I is also a poignant and dramatic tale of coping with inevitable loss and how that loss can be transformed into meaning. An uplifting, fable-like true story, it not only reveals the power of friendship and our interconnectedness with the natural world but introduces an original, imaginative, stunning new literary voice.

Praise for Fox & I:

“Fox and I will make you feel deeply about our relationship with animals and nature. After you read this book, you will experience animals in a new and marvelous way.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

“If Thoreau had read The Little Prince, he would have written Fox and I.”—Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi

“Intimate and poetic …. By paying ecstatic attention to grasses, insects, birds, and animals, Catherine Raven allows us to hear what nature is saying to us. Fox and I is essential reading for anyone concerned about the catastrophe human beings are inflicting on the environment from which they and all other creatures sprang.” —Stephen Batchelor, author of The Art of Solitude

“This tale of wilderness, in the tradition of Thoreau and Steinbeck, is distinguished by a narrator who sees herself as one of the many creatures she lives among …. Catherine Raven has achieved something unique in the literature of nature-writing: genuine love for the wild within the rigor of scientific observation. The voice of this story-teller is startlingly original. I read it breathlessly.”— Andrei Codrescu

“Fox and I is a mesmerizing, beautifully written, and entirely unsentimental book about the connection among all things: the author and her fox friend, but also magpies, brown dogs, fawns, voles, and junipers. I learned as much about the meaning of friendship from this book as I have from any work of nonfiction that I’ve ever read.”—Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Title:  Next to Love

Author:  Ellen Feldman

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  January 2012 – Spiegel & Grau (trade paperback)

About:  (from the Goodreads synopsis) It’s 1941. Babe throws like a boy, thinks for herself, and never expects to escape the poor section of her quiet Massachusetts town. Then World War II breaks out, and everything changes. Her friend Grace, married to a reporter on the local paper, fears being left alone with her infant daughter when her husband is shipped out; Millie, the third member of their childhood trio, now weds the boy who always refused to settle down; and Babe wonders if she should marry Claude, who even as a child could never harm a living thing. As the war rages abroad, life on the home front undergoes its own battles and victories; and when the men return, and civilian life resumes, nothing can go back to quite the way it was.

My take:  Next to Love is one of those novels that reinforce my love of reading fiction. It’s not a heartwarming Norman Rockwell-ish tale of the folks at home while their loved ones fought in Europe. Instead, Feldman wrote a believable portrayal of how hard it was for both. At least I believed it. It was unglamorous and gritty at times but also courageous and uplifting.

Babe, Grace and Millie strive to do what is expected of them. Each handles it in her own way which is either embraced or frowned upon. Each chapter spotlights one of the women which gives great depth to each character. We learn their background, perspective and motivation.

The scene that affected me the most was the day many families received word that a loved one died in the invasion of Normandy. As each telegram was delivered I could feel the terror and heartbreak of the person receiving the news.

The time span of the early 1940s to early 1960s was one of great social and political change. It was interesting to see how Feldman’s characters experienced those years. I recommend Next to Love to anyone who loves to read about this time in history and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.

Source: The publisher via Goodreads First Reads

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.