Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

We are often told that our world needs to slow down, get outside, and enjoy nature more. Many of us seem to have lost our connection with the natural world and it shows in the increase in so many of our ills: obesity, depression, and stress, to name a few.  Although the outdoors cannot cure these things, experts tell us that it would certainly mitigate them at the very least. And for anyone who has spent time outside communing with nature and wildlife, there is definitely something a little bit magical about the untamed world. There is more than a little of this magic in Ruth Emmie Lang's slightly magical, charming debut novel, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

Weylyn Grey has always been special. Born in June, it snowed as soon as he breathed for the first time. He is orphaned young in a freak storm that he feels responsible for causing and ends up being raised by wolves. He can communicate with animals, he can make plants grow riotously out of control, and he can stop (and start) storms. He is sweetly innocent and as he moves through the world, he touches all he comes into contact with. He never stays with anyone very long, his closest long term companion being Merlin, a talking pig. His adventures are fantastical and wonderful and though his time in each place is brief, he leaves an indelible mark behind himself.

Told in the first person by the people whose lives Weylyn moves through, this is a whimsical story with a clear fairy tale quality. Weylyn as a character is both revealed by the narrators and remains just out of reach, quietly elusive. He is a gentle soul with a strong but ungovernable connection to the natural world, as if he was not human born but truly a child of the forest. He is uncomfortable with most people but when he loves, he loves with his whole heart. The writing is slow and measured and the novel feels like quiet mysticism. There is a yearning for home and understanding as Weylyn moves around meeting others who sometimes embrace him and sometimes misunderstand his power. There are adventures within each encounter he has but the plot is less important that the ultimate journey. The second half of the novel slows down a bit and the ending is purposely ambiguous. At its core, this is a fairy tale of a story about difference, love, and acceptance and it will leave the reader feeling contented and at peace, just like a ramble through the woods might.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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