This short story from the author of Lincoln the Bardo is written from the perspective of a curious fox called Fox 8. We follow along as he learns to speak “yuman” by hiding in the bushes of a home and as he grapples with the ugly side of the people he has begun to understand.
This book is about 48 teeny tiny pages long, so it is the perfect choice for a lazy afternoon. Though it is narrated by the sweetest, most curious, idealistic fox in all the land and has a child-like tone, the book is far from frivolous. Instead, it is rife with commentary on human nature, our imperialism of the natural world, and leaves us with a final reminder to be kind to all living things. It had me nearly in tears by the end.
The book itself is a joy to read. Illustrated by Chelsea Cardinal, Fox 8 is full of sweet doodles of Fox 8 traipsing the countryside, entering the shopping mall, and speaking to his fellow foxes. The text’s deliberate misspellings are endearing and abundant, as Fox 8 has learned to speak “yuman” by listening at the window as a mom reads bedtime stories to her children. Fox 8 uses this newfound language skill to foresee “danjer” in the form of a mall, which would cut off his pack’s food supply. Being a brave little fox, he journeys into the mall to gather food to save his dying pack. As he exits, he is faced with the ultimate example of human cruelty. This scene absolutely broke my heart and it also broke Fox 8’s spirit. He never quite recovers his joyful, curious nature, which serves to represent the consequences of not respecting the natural world. We consider animals inferior because they don’t have the same cognitive abilities as humans. However, if they were able to speak as we can, this concept becomes invalid and the actions of humans need to be reconsidered. The story leaves a reader to consider not only this, but also the results of disillusionment.
The most notable part of this short story is the letter Fox 8 writes to humans at the end. Not only does it throw the selfishness of humanity into the limelight, but it also underlines just how unnecessary it is for humans to attempt to take over the natural world without leaving sanctuaries behind for the creatures already inhabiting it. It is the saddest ever, but it also left me a lot to think about over the next few days.
Overall? A well-written short story filled to the brim with opportunities to consider humanity as it is and as it could be.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me this free review copy. All opinions are my own!
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Penguin Random House; November 13, 2018; 64 pp; Short Story -> Literary Fiction