Weylyn Grey has never been normal. Taken in by wolves at a young age and able to communicate with nature since birth, he lived an unusual life filled with living on the land and stopping major storms in their tracks. Everyone who spent time with him has a story, including the doctor that delivered him and all the families that took him in after his time in the forest, and Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is Weylyn’s unusual and fascinating life from their perspective.
Magical realism, odd characters, a sprinkle of magic? VERY my thing, so I have been waiting to pick this book up for months. Going into Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, I had envisioned a book in the vein of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them crossed with the Spiderwick series I so loved from my youth. And … I was KIND OF on track, but mostly not.
On a macro level, this book tells the story of an unusual person who lives adjacent to societal norms, creates his own life path, and puts the needs of others far above his own. It’s a book about a person who is looking for love but can’t seem to keep a hold on it. On a micro level? Yes, there is some magic and a few unusual circumstances involving hurricanes, tornados, rain storms, fireflies, and rainbows. The best part about magical realism to me is the practice of suspending disbelief and allowing characters like Weylyn to speak to raccoons, live with wolves, and harvest light energy from fireflies, while also being able to zoom out and extract morals and inspiration from the broader tale. In this case, I walked away from this book wondering where my life could lead if I stepped off the path, if I buried my own wants underneath those of my loved ones, and fully, unabashedly embracing every facet of myself without changing a thing for my surroundings. I loved Weylyn Grey. His character filled my entire heart up and he made me think about life differently, if only for 345 pages.
Beyond Weylyn, I thought this book was really lovely, though not perfect. The setting was wonderful to me, both romantic and perfectly described. When Mary and Weylyn lived in the frigid tundra and in their cozy cabin, I wanted to up and move to Montana and become a logger. When Meg moved in with Weylyn and Lydia and their family, I loved the carriage house and the safe environment it provided for everyone who entered. The rich description of this book wrapped the narration up into a cozy blanket and added to the magic of the story itself.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance was also told almost entirely from the perspective of the people surrounding the main character as he traveled through life: Weylyn’s foster sister, his first teacher after he emerged from the woods, a young boy looking for an impressive dare, his foster mom who didn’t accept him, and the love of his life, Mary, among others. We read through their eyes in an non-chronological timeline, which provides a fitting vessel for the unusual story of Weylyn’s life. Sometimes, this type of narration can feel disassociated and prevent reader’s from engaging with the story, but in this case, I actually think we had a bit of the opposite effect.
I never felt like I didn’t know Weylyn, but I did, at times, think the supporting, narrating characters were flattened by their own external description. I wanted a wider glimpse into Mary and I would have liked to hear from Meg as she adopted Weylyn and was able to fulfill her wish to have a child. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somewhere in this book I wanted more. Perhaps it was this character development or maybe a lack of real depth in the problems and resolutions.
Overall? Not without flaws, but generally a very sweet, heart-warming book about a boy who doesn’t fit into this life and all the people who are swept away with him.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: St. Martin's Press; November 14, 2017; 332 pp; 1250112044. Fantasy -> Magical Realism