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After about 125 pages, I simply gave up. Nothing this woman was yammering about was in any way interesting or insightful. Ms. Raven clearly went cuckoo out in the wilderness and never recovered. She's the person at parties you'd steer clear of lest you get in a 3 hour debate about mange. I expected more, but I guess I got what I deserved when it said right there on the cover what I'd be getting.
After 2 weeks of observing FOX, Catherine Raven makes friends by ignoring him and by reading an enhanced version of “The Little Prince”. Sounds strange? It worked for her as she gently melds science and literature into an engaging read.
Raven’s prose is atmospheric and literary with touches of wonder & whimsy. Clearly, this is where she’s at home and comfortable. Altho’ she teaches in a university, her heart is in this cottage and the woods where she’s an expert with the plant life as well as the animals. Occasionally, the POV is given to FOX or another critter making for an interesting perspective.
“Fox & I” is not a “rush ‘n read” story. This is a story to savor and read with patience. You might learn that being alone doesn’t mean being lonely but could bring you friends from the most unlikely of places📚
Like all friendships, common bonds form the basis for this mutual connection between author Raven and a wild fox on her isolated land in central Montana; they both interact easily with nature, are boundlessly curious, wary of most humans, and lack daily company. For Raven, the burgeoning relationship is as rewarding as it is perplexing as she reconciles this unique bond with her scientific training as a biologist -- and her realization that she seems to have formed a deeper connection with a wild fox than with most people.
Raven is a wonderfully gifted writer whose descriptive prose often immerses readers in playful, enchanting paragraphs that transport readers to her magical Montana landscape. Consider this evocative passage about a nighttime encounter with Fox’ playful offspring “Riveted, I strained my eyes to watch their undisciplined performance in the moon’s light, and my other senses diminished as if I were dropping slowly underwater. Gulping air, holding my breath, I fell into the night with unfettered foxes swimming all around me.”
The pace may not be for everybody; some hikers are destination-focused. Raven is the knowledgeable and eloquent guide you want if you would rather absorb, savor, and reflect on the nuances of nature surrounding you.
The author spends a lot of time on her emotional baggage, but does not provide enough of a backstory to fully explain this baggage. We get nothing more than glimpses. We're left with an image of a peculiar person who, for example, laments never owning a television or a credit card. She constantly references her PhD, almost as if despearte to say "I'm not a total dingbat." (People who are confident in their knowledge don't constantly reference their academic degrees.) She seems reticient to put her academic knowledge to good use - yet another quirk.
Maybe none of this should matter. However, the author's emotional baggage changes the tone of the story. What should have been a charming story about a woman and a fox ends up reading like "Crazy Cat Woman Makes Friends with a Fox."
Catherine Raven leads her reader on an ambiguous quest which in part involves the question of her real purpose in writing Fox and I. The book is not without a gift for drawing a reader into Raven’s—and Fox’—world and being charming along the way. But if the point is to leave many questions unanswered she is fully successful.
The first such question is what kind of writing is involved. My copy lists itself as “memoir”, but it is unlike most memoirs. For one thing, did all she recounts really happen, or is this actually a work of imaginative fiction, an encounter, indeed a “friendship”, with a fox drawn from a fantasy world? I give her the benefit of this doubt and grant that this friendship did occur somewhat as written. Such a judgement on my part is rendered difficult by the many times she interpolates her fox’ point of view into the narrative by letting him take over the telling, always without announcing the transition in narrators. In the process she allows Fox to give her a name—“Hurricane Hands”—without ever doing the same for him. In addition, she gives “pet” names to a couple of magpies, whom she does not like, allowing her “friend” to remain just Fox.
Raven’s past life is not discussed in any detail other than a brief mention of her unhappy birth home, which she left at age fifteen. The following hurtful comment she remembers from her father when she was twelve. “I didn’t want to have children, I don’t want to know if you ever have children, and I’m not interested in what happens to you.” (p. 70) This certainly betokens at the very least emotional child abuse. The role of the apparently emotionally-absent mother we never learn. Certainly there could be material here for Freudian psychoanalysis, but all such questions are left unanswered. One cannot but wonder how such a home life affected all that we read of her later life.
As the story progresses, and as Raven’s and Fox’ relationship develops, she struggles with how to characterize it, perhaps to herself but especially to others such as her college students. The end result of the struggle: “My best friend is a wild red fox.” (p.259) In the context of her spending almost all her free time alone in her forest cabin, and despite her having other distant human acquaintances, one is led to wonder if Fox was her only real friend. Questions of her possible placement in the autism spectrum are unavoidable. It would by no means be problematic for the narrative if she were, but the question is again unanswered.
The actual narrative is ragged and at times hard to follow, but the charm of the odd relationship between two different species is engaging. However the reader is left with speculations unfulfilled, wondering about Raven’s future if not about what led to the strange relationship in the first place.
I've never lived in high country or in the West but Raven's descriptions are so detailed and vivid that I could almost feel the difference in the air and vegetation around me. As someone who has also had fox friends I appreciate her description of and insight into Fox's behavior and her own.
This is a somewhat entertaining little book, but nowhere near as enthralling as I expected from all the enthusiastic reviews. The author’s voice grates at times, not from the subject matter, but from tone and cadence…plus, I’m never quite sure what her point is. Finally, with a Phd in biology, she missed (or forgot to correct) a serious factual error concerning Homo floresiensis. When first discovered, this early hominid was thought to have survived until 12,000 years ago, which she mentions as fact. Later investigations revealed the skeletal material to be 60,000 to 100,000 years old. There’s no excuse for a serious student of nature not to know this.