Genre: Fiction, quasi-magical realism
I won’t lie, I bought this book because of the cover. I love a handsome book cover, and this edition really appealed to my aesthetics. I also really dig foxes, so a book about a fox appealed to my interests. I bought it through bookoutlet.com (which is one of my favorite places to buy books online) when it popped up as a recommended title. I went in completely blind about the writer and the plot, and ended up really enjoying this book.
One of the things I liked most about this book is that the plot starts at the middle of the story, goes back in time, then jumps forward. It takes place over only a few days, making it exceptionally easy to follow the time warp, and is skillfully done. We begin with a preacher heading out on a hunt for a blue fox. We get the perspective of the fox intertwined with the preacher’s perspective during this first third of the book. A lesser writer would not have handled the animal perspective so well, as often it can get unrealistic and cheesy, but the we don’t dip into that territory with Sjón.
We go a few days back in time, and we learn about an herbalist living on the outskirts of the town, who has had a young woman under his charge for several years. Her story is especially tragic. She had Down Syndrome, and the backstory of her treatment by the town is horrific. It’s a small slice of the history of Down Syndrome as well, which is also tragic. She has passed away and the herbalist is sending her body with the preacher’s “assistant” back to town for burial, but he is uniquely mourning her passing. This slice of the timeline is layered in sadness and hope and I think it is my favorite part of the book.
When we return to the preacher, he has captured his blue fox. He finds himself seriously injured by an avalanche and this is when things take a particularly interesting turn. I think there are many ways to interpret what happens next, which I am itching to discuss but can’t without spoiling the entire book. Regardless, it is safe for me to say that the preacher loses his lucidity at one point, and that is where the interesting turn takes place. We end the book with a pretty provocative revelation, which is where I think Sjón’s ability to weave together a story really shines.
What really stands out to me about this book is that I finished it about two weeks ago, but it’s still rattling around my head. I can usually finish a book, decide if I liked it or not, and move on to the next read. Despite being one of my shortest reads this year, I am still mulling over it. I’m actually thinking about reading it again once I get through some of the other books I’m currently reading, and I am not one to re-read books. I had originally rated this book four stars, but it is slowly creeping into five star territory. I am going to be looking into some of Sjón’s other works as well.