Posted in Miscellany

Fauna by Alissa York

He’s a fine hunter, young but able, no trace of the blind kitten he once was. The memory lives in his senses: the massed, many-hearted comfort of the den; the return of the mother’s pungent coat and sweet-smelling teats. Soon she brought them more than milk–the first leggy mouthful of spider, the first pretty pink worm. Eventually she led them to the source of all things good and wriggling, the wide open night of the world. (p. 147 of Fauna)

That was a skunk, by the way. I found myself engrossed by and sympathetic to skunk, fox, raccoon and bat in Fauna.

Alissa York writes tenderly and poetically about animals amongst themselves and in relationship to humans, who are fauna, too, albeit the only species with access to the internet. In this novel a collection of wounded creatures, human and otherwise, connect through the handsome young owner of an auto-wrecker yard, Guy Howell. Animals are rescued there, roadkill is given a proper burial. Humans are accepted unconditionally: teenage runaway Lily, wildlife officer Edal, ex-soldier Stephen, vet tech Kate.

Like the animals in the story, they’ve lost loved ones, been rejected, suffered trauma in war and with family. Finding refuge with Guy, they bond through their common love of animals. Only survivalist Darius, whose pain has found expression in vendetta against urban wildlife, can find no comfort or ease from it.

Alissa York’s writing is lyrical and lovely, portraying woundedness, animal or human, with compassion and truth. Her animals astounded me; her humans lacked some degree of complexity, but they are endearing and I so wanted everything to work out well for them.

Fauna is a good novel, and Alissa York a good writer with an uncommon subject. I’m so glad to include her in my sidebar of CanLit authors!



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

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