Cary Fagan, 152 pgs, Book*hug Press, bookhugpress.ca, $23
Attempting to recreate a fairy tale world isn’t always the wisest of life choices. In The Animals, a short but lovely slice-of-life novella, the residents of a boring little tourist village discover this in quite a chaotic manner, when an assortment of wild creatures takes up residence right in people’s homes.
Our tale focuses on Dorn, a timid and awkward miniature maker with a troublesome family and a nonexistent love life. For Dorn, like many others, life in the village has become lonely, boring, and stagnant. Then one day, the animals arrive: wolves, vultures, bears, and other wildlife, taking on the role of pets or roommates thanks to an exciting new government program. Dorn himself “couldn’t under-stand why he seemed to be learning about this program after everyone else and saw it as another sign that life was somehow passing him by.” Will the arrival of these fanged and furry guests be a disaster in the making, or exactly what the village (and Dorn) needs?
The book mainly focuses on human relationships, particularly between Dorn, his family members (a dis-approving father and an aggressive brother), and his unsuspecting love interest. Personally, I would have liked to read more about the animals themselves, though I still quite enjoyed what’s here: quirky humour, an eccentric cast, and some great character development. The book’s relaxed pace is never boring, with several plot points highlighting the joy of the mundane. Quite wholesome, in my opinion!
A look into small-town life with a magical air, The Animals reminded me a little of my own travels through some of Ontario’s tourist destinations, and even the game Night in the Woods. A charming tale indeed!