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Fauna [Paperback]

Alissa York
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 26 2011
In her highly anticipated new novel, Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Alissa York creates a contemporary human fable that taps into the great tenderness and drama at the heart of the animal world.

The wide ravine that bisects the city is home to countless species of urban wildlife, including human waifs and strays. When Edal Jones can't cope with the casual cruelty she encounters in her job as a federal wildlife officer, she finds herself drawn to a beacon of solace nestled in the valley under the unlikely banner of an auto-wrecker's yard. Guy Howell, the handsome proprietor, offers sanctuary to animals and people alike: a half-starved hawk and a brood of orphaned raccoon kits, a young soldier whose spirit failed him during his first tour of duty, a teenage runaway and her massive black dog. Guy is well versed in the delicate workings of damaged beings, and he might just stand a chance at mending Edal's heart.

But before love can bloom, the little community must come to terms with a different breed of lost soul - a young man whose brutal backwoods childhood is catching up with him, causing him to persecute the creatures that call the valley home.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Alissa York’s Fauna is an extraordinary novel. A departure from the author’s previous, more historically minded works (including 2007’s Scotiabank Giller Prize–nominated Effigy), Fauna takes place in the hidden, wild corners of present-day Toronto, where the titular animals are rats and raccoons, coyotes and cats, injured foxes by the roadside and dead birds at the bases of office towers.

The book’s human characters live on the fringes of urban society. Edal, on stress leave from her job as a federal wildlife officer, encounters a homeless teenager gathering dead birds from the sidewalk. The girl flees upon approach, and Edal follows her to a curious dwelling on the edge of the Don Valley, where sick and injured creatures (and people) are taken in and cared for.

Realizing that the makeshift shelter violates wildlife regulations, Edal is conflicted about her association with the group, and must hide her official role from the others, whose backstories of loss and trauma York reveals over the course of the novel. When mutilated coyote carcasses begin appearing in the ravine – clearly the work of a vigilante hunter – the group must acknowledge the limits of its power to protect the city’s fauna, and Edal is prodded to put her life back together again.

York does not use Toronto as a mere backdrop; her novel evokes the city with remarkable specificity. The Don Valley is at the centre, with its roaring traffic, winding river, and incongruous wilderness teeming with life. The valley is bordered on one side by the affluent Cabbagetown neighbourhood and a city-run farm, on the other by a Chinatown whose alleys are prime scavenging grounds for raccoons. The story tracks its characters through these neighbourhoods, back and forth across the Riverdale Footbridge, and into outlying areas, creating a picture of Toronto that bears scant resemblance to the city many of us think we know.

York pulls off a daring feat by having the animals themselves narrate a few passages, managing a most unsentimental portrayal – these animals are vermin, and it’s a dog-eat-rabbit world out there. But it’s also a world whose connections to literature are strong: Fauna calls to mind works such as Watership Down, The Jungle Book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Wild Animals I Have Known.

York’s exceptional novel shows that books, like cities, are enlivened by their wild populations.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.



“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 even noble in its sensitivity.”
Toronto Star
“An extraordinary novel. . . . daring and exceptional.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)
“A tender and beautiful novel.”
NOW (Toronto)

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 7 days of real life - and real wild life. Feb. 20 2011
By LeeLee
After finishing "Fauna" by Alissa York, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. In fact, it took me a few days following the end to process what I had just read.
There is no doubt that the writing is beautiful, York's narration is stunning, not to mention she wrote the entire book in the present tense which is an art unto itself I believe.
What struck me about this novel is its realism - this book follows 6 people (and a few fauna) over the course of roughly 7 days, interspersed with flashbacks that slowly reveal what each character is going through emotionally.
I kept waiting for something huge to happen - a big event, adventure, something... and I believe that this is why after reading it I wasn't sure I liked it.
Now, looking back, I realized that this book is beautiful in its representation of real life - and real wild life. York gives you an intimate look into the lives of people that you probably meet every day - the Edal's struggling with emotional stress, the Lily's finding independence and voice, the Kate's who are suffering a deep loss... and the wildlife she uses to narrate some passages - they are all individuals whose personal stories permeate the world around us, these characters could walk off the page, so deep is their development. York artfully expresses each character's personality and interactions with each other - they are all connected somehow, through love, loss, life, and wildlife.
Overall, this book is a piece of art - it's like nothing I have ever read before and I would recommend spending some time pondering the realities York presents after you close the back cover.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite Fiction of 2010 Jan. 1 2011
Just finished Alissa York's beautiful novel, Fauna. Tenderly written from multiple human and animal points of view, it completely altered my perceptions of the wild all around us.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wildlife Lovers (and a Hater) April 8 2012
By jd103 - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a simple pleasure for anyone interested in the wildlife featured in the book. This is not a book with talking animals although the human characters in the book spent lots of time reading books such as Watership Down and The Jungle Book, and one of the characters is named after an otter.

This is a book about the real wildlife of a city and people for whom they are important. Some of the people try to help by rescuing injured birds, rehabbing a red-tailed hawk and orphan raccoons (I've done the latter myself so I especially enjoyed the pages mentioning their noise and bottle-feeding them). One of the characters cares about a mouse living in her apartment, and ironically just after I started this review, I had to stop writing to look for one which ran across my dorm room.

On the other side is a character who wants to eliminate coyotes, and things can get a bit gruesome in his portion of the story.

The human aspect of the story involves the small group of animal lovers gradually getting to know each other and bonding as a small alternative family/community. This is not timeless literature, but a fine story of compassion.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fauna Jan. 19 2011
By Debra Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
an excellent, fast read. a great book, especially for those of us who know toronto. provides good topics for bookclub discussion. well done miss york. i will now read your previous book «effigy».
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