a wonderfully written novel that made me care about each person and each animal - I didn't want it to end. humanity at its best and worst.
has the same cover pictire as '40 Things I Want To Tell You' by Alice Kuipers..... weird
Fauna was far outside my comfort zone of reading, but as it was selected for the short list (and was just announced as the final pick!) for Durham Region's Pass the Book, I gave it a try. (This version of the cover had also caught my eye on the shelf more than a couple times).
Alissa York is a fantastic writer, and her style is understated while describing scenery and emotions in a real way that you connect with easily. Set in the Don Valley in Toronto, it's twice as fun when you're able to recognize landmarks and streets, and know you've come across the animals we meet throughout the narrative. It truly is a subconscious of that part of the city, and Alissa York captures it beautifully.
An oddly interesting book, you can read as much or as little into it as you'd like. The characters all seem to be just a little (or a lot) broken, but are brought together into a combined social setting by thier interactions with wildlife. Set in Toronto, there's enough familier with this book that you have no difficulty picturing it. It's well worth picking up.
Authors in the House: Join us for coffee as Alissa York shares her writings with us. Sat. May 26, 2012, 3:00-4:00 pm, @ the Strathcona County Library. Giller-nominee Alissa York’s
work is described by critics
as ” frighteningly real,”
“beautiful, unusual and
memorable” and “rich,
strange and deeply
Set in Toronto, Don Valley area. Nicely written characters, flawed and damaged in different ways, gradually fit together.
Guy Howell, proprietor of autowrecker's yard on edge of the Don Valley ravine offers sanctuary to strays - animals and people alike. Stephen, a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan; Darius, coyote hunter & survivor of brutal beatings from his grandfather; Lily tents in ravine with Billy, a big black dog & rescues songbirds; Kate lonely & has just lost her partner LouLou, Edal Jones, a federal wildlife officer on stress leave from the handling of smuggling of rare creatures; Storyline from the perspective the humans & animals who inhabit the ravine. Sweet & ingrossing read. Guy has the insight to treat both animals & humans with respect & deep understanding of the damge that they have experienced.
Early in his own reading of Fauna, a panelist with the National Post Afterword Reading Society referred to the urban wild settings in the book as "a kind of subconscious of the city". (http://arts.nationalpost.com/2010/07/20/the-afterword-reading-society-of-furry-scenarios-and-human-cameos/) I latched on to that observation about one-third of the way through my own reading of Alissa York's fine novel. I found that characterization of Toronto's Don river, valley and ravines as the subconscious, the undercurrent and the foundation of this haunting urban wildlife love story gorgeously informed my Fauna experience. "Characterization" is probably a particularly apt word, as the urban wild settings are almost a collective character unto themselves. York sensitively and unforgettably weaves the presence of this character throughout a tale of damaged souls struggling to survive in a large city and in the world in general.
Fauna's characters, separate and with seemingly little in common initially, cross paths, converge and ultimately connect against a background that runs the gamut from the office towers of the city's intimidating financial district, to the sweeping roadways and busy streets, to the lush, labrynthine, simultaneously welcoming and sinister forests, bushes, creeks and ravines. York deftly handles multiple voices and perspectives, including those of a federal wildlife officer on stress leave, an auto wrecking company owner and self-taught wildlife rescuer and sanctuary manager, a homeless teenager and her faithful dog, a veterinarian specializing in animal rehabilitation, a young military veteran and a controversial blogger who might or might not be on a deadly mission. Each character is troubled in one form or another in the present, but can also trace many current tribulations and challenges to dark chapters and influences in their respective pasts. They gravitate to each other through their love of and connection to nature and animals. In one case, where that love and connection do not exist, the character hostile to nature is tragically isolated.
York's facility with balancing different voices and points of view extends beyond the human. The sections seen through the eyes of various urban wildlife are sufficiently convincing and germane to the story and its themes of personal and collective survival. This multi-layered approach is only occasionally an impediment to this otherwise engrossing novel when some of the switches are made a little too quickly, when you'd perhaps rather spend just a few more pages or even paragraphs with a specific character or situation.
Do I find this book resonates so much because the Toronto backdrop is literally so close to home? Perhaps, but I hope it would similarly strike a chord with any citizen sensitive to that same urban wild undercurrent in his or her own city.
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