Fauna

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Fauna

by Alissa York

Random House of Canada | July 19, 2012 | Hardcover

5 out of 5 rating. 2 Reviews
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NOMINEE 2011 - Toronto Book Awards

When Edal Jones wakes to the sound of a mouse on the hardwood floor by her bed, she doesn't quite know why she says softly, "Hello." But then, a lot of things have stopped making sense for Edal. As a federal wildlife officer at Pearson International Airport she's seen everything from goliath bird-eating tarantulas crammed in a briefcase to a California condor "folded up like a sports coat." So why has the sight of juvenile star tortoises crushed and broken in a grandmother's luggage suddenly made it impossible for her to go on?
 
That same morning, riding her bike in the empty downtown core, Edal spots a young homeless girl rescuing birds that have knocked themselves out against the glassy office towers. Edal tracks Lily through the city to Howell Auto Wreckers in Toronto's east end and discovers a new world where the links between people and animals can heal rather than hurt.
 
Handsome wrecking-yard owner Guy Howell employs Stephen, a young soldier on medical release whose duties include veterinary as well as mechanical tasks. Guy is rehabilitating a weakened red-tailed hawk, while Stephen raises a litter of orphaned raccoons, and Lily comes and goes with her birds and her constant companion, a massive black dog named Billy. All the characters in Fauna are animal lovers in search of something that human cruelty has denied them. As the narrative develops, we learn more about each of them, until they begin to feel like our intimate friends. The circle expands to include a young veterinary technician mourning her lover's death, then expands again with dramatic consequences for all concerned when a disturbed young man starts taking out his anger and sorrow on the coyotes that live in the Don Valley.
 
Gently, meditatively, this unique novel delivers a profoundly immersive experience. A new kind of urban writing, Fauna encourages us to look again at the margins and undercurrents of the cities we inhabit, and consider how we treat the other beings who call those spaces home. What's more, the persuasive beauty of York's writing, the tenderness of her approach to her characters, and the connections she draws between them invite us to look inward and re-evaluate both the human and the animal within.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 pages, 9.3 × 6.55 × 1.25 in

Published: July 19, 2012

Publisher: Random House of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307357899

ISBN - 13: 9780307357892

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– More About This Product –

Fauna

by Alissa York

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 pages, 9.3 × 6.55 × 1.25 in

Published: July 19, 2012

Publisher: Random House of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307357899

ISBN - 13: 9780307357892

Read from the Book

1 The City Book   MONDAY     She wakes to the sound of claws—a busy scrabbling on hardwood, not far from her ear. Pre-dawn darkness, a drift of warm, weak light from the bathroom down the hall. Slowly, warily, she turns her head. The mouse halts, whiskers quivering. Less than an arm’s length from her face.   Letting her breath out in a thin, steady stream, Edal does what she can to soften her gaze. The mouse is unconvinced. It holds its position, flank pressed to the skirting board, fur jumping with the panic of its pulse. She knows better than to try soothing it with words; years of experience have taught her few sounds trouble the wild ear so much as human speech. A small shock, then, to herself as much as to the creature before her, when the sound escapes her lips.   “Hello,” she says softly, and the mouse swivels and runs.     Looking up from the sink, Edal meets herself dripping in the medicine cabinet’s mirrored doors. The centre seam draws a line down her nose, her unremarkable mouth. It separates her eyes, brown and large, already set slightly too far apart—a little odd, but not unattractive, perhaps the best feature in what she hopes could be called a heart-shaped face. Shoulder-length hair lies flat and brown against her skull. She would cut it short and be done with it, but she needs it to cover her ears. No one’s ever told her they’re too small—she reached that conclusion all
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From the Publisher

NOMINEE 2011 - Toronto Book Awards

When Edal Jones wakes to the sound of a mouse on the hardwood floor by her bed, she doesn't quite know why she says softly, "Hello." But then, a lot of things have stopped making sense for Edal. As a federal wildlife officer at Pearson International Airport she's seen everything from goliath bird-eating tarantulas crammed in a briefcase to a California condor "folded up like a sports coat." So why has the sight of juvenile star tortoises crushed and broken in a grandmother's luggage suddenly made it impossible for her to go on?
 
That same morning, riding her bike in the empty downtown core, Edal spots a young homeless girl rescuing birds that have knocked themselves out against the glassy office towers. Edal tracks Lily through the city to Howell Auto Wreckers in Toronto's east end and discovers a new world where the links between people and animals can heal rather than hurt.
 
Handsome wrecking-yard owner Guy Howell employs Stephen, a young soldier on medical release whose duties include veterinary as well as mechanical tasks. Guy is rehabilitating a weakened red-tailed hawk, while Stephen raises a litter of orphaned raccoons, and Lily comes and goes with her birds and her constant companion, a massive black dog named Billy. All the characters in Fauna are animal lovers in search of something that human cruelty has denied them. As the narrative develops, we learn more about each of them, until they begin to feel like our intimate friends. The circle expands to include a young veterinary technician mourning her lover's death, then expands again with dramatic consequences for all concerned when a disturbed young man starts taking out his anger and sorrow on the coyotes that live in the Don Valley.
 
Gently, meditatively, this unique novel delivers a profoundly immersive experience. A new kind of urban writing, Fauna encourages us to look again at the margins and undercurrents of the cities we inhabit, and consider how we treat the other beings who call those spaces home. What's more, the persuasive beauty of York's writing, the tenderness of her approach to her characters, and the connections she draws between them invite us to look inward and re-evaluate both the human and the animal within.

About the Author

Alissa York's fiction has won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award, and has been published in Canada, the U.S., France, Holland and Italy. Her most recent novel, Effigy, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. York has lived all over Canada and now makes her home in Toronto with her husband, artist Clive Holden.

Editorial Reviews

NATIONAL BESTSELLER “Rich and strange and deeply satisfying. Whether she’s adopting the voice of a homeless teen, a yuppy vet, or a famished coyote, York writes with a spare, unsentimental fluency that connects strangers, enemies, species. Fauna  reminds us of the life that swoops and slithers and lopes and pounces all around us, even in the most urban of worlds; a wild life we share and ignore at our peril.” —Annabel Lyon, author of  The Golden Mean   “ Fauna  is the sort of rare novel that can change the way you see your world. Its cast of misfits and dreamers is united by their visceral connection to the forgotten animals surviving in the green patches of our big cities. This book is beautiful, unusual and memorable. And Alissa York is a daring and original talent.” —Jim Lynch, author of  Border Songs “Layered with astonishing detail, with every location vividly evoked and every action a visceral experience.” — The Globe and Mail   “One of the novel’s strengths is the way York turns her gaze from the human world to the world of Toronto’s skunks, coyotes, raccoons and squirrels. . . . Even as she brings animals to life with her writing, she is clear about the terrible toll taken by everything from cars, to skyscraper windows, to live electrical wires.” — Winnipeg Free Press   “Lyrical. . . . Fauna is well crafted, morally serious and e
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Bookclub Guide

1. What is troubling Edal? How does Guy help her?

2. Has Fauna changed your view of animals and city life? Does it reflect anything in your own experience?

3. How is the book structured, and why? Why does it cut between past and present and different points of view?

4. From story time at Howell Auto Wreckers to Letty's house, Fauna is (sometimes literally) full of books. What do these other books add to the novel?

5. If you've read Alissa York's previous novels, such as Effigy or Mercy, how do you compare Fauna with them?

6. How are the characters in Fauna linked? Consider the small coincidental connections between them (such as moments when one sees another from a subway train window) to the more profound emotional bonds.

7. How does the unusual family in Fauna provide the sanctuary that traditional families often cannot? What's the importance of the "modern family" in this book?

8. What role does death play in the novel? What do the characters say about death and how do they respond to it? You might consider how Fauna treats the deaths of animals and people differently (or similarly), and the importance of mourning and burial in the novel.

9. What is the significance of the title, Fauna? Can you think of any alternative titles you might give this book?

10. Why did Alissa York include the sections in the novel written from the perspective of a raccoon or bat? Are they effective? What do they add to the overall narrative?

11. The novel features a large, well-rounded cast of characters. Who affects you most deeply, and why? Who do you find most interesting? Are there any characters you don't connect with, and if so why do you think that is?

12. What does love accomplish in Fauna? How do people demonstrate love? Do animals experience love?

13. How does York create sympathy for her characters? You might focus on the more troubled individuals, such as Darius.

14. In what sense is Toronto's Don Valley a character in the novel? How do the settings contribute to the story and to your sense of the characters?

15. What does Lily learn in Fauna?

16. Were you surprised by what happens to Darius at the close of the novel? How do you explain it?

17. How would you describe Alissa York's writing style in Fauna? (You may find it helpful to compare Fauna to her other work, or to that of other writers.) Would you call it lyrical, pared-down, lush, hypnotic . . . ? What effect does it have on you?

18. Will you recommend Fauna to your friends? Why or why not?

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