Though it has elements of a memoir, Fox World is most about encountering creatures in nature; it derives lessons and inspiration from those wilderness interactions.
Jack Russell’s memoir Fox World is about a canine connection that was a source of refuge during a period of recovery.
After a series of cardiac issues, Russell knew he had to slow down and heal. As part of his rehabilitation process, he visited a woodland area near Washington, DC and encountered Mr. Fox, a red fox who was rescued as a pup. Russell’s time in nature coincided with a personal goal: he would walk five hundred miles in the course of a year. His frequent retreats to Mr. Fox’s world helped him to achieve that goal.
However, the book’s personal stories are limited to those that either directly relate, or are made to relate, to animals and nature, as with a story about Russell’s mother feeding three hungry boys, which Russell brings up when he feeds the fox’s family after a flood. Russell also recalls listening to the radio with a chipmunk, and uses a creature encounter to discuss reconnecting with his father.
In lieu of more personal tales, the book includes informative details about foxes. Notes on their physical appearances, lifespan, diets, and behavior enrich the text, which also covers the dangers that animals face in the wild. Russell discusses how humans encroach on animal habitats; the fact that animals face starvation because of extreme climatic conditions; and the diseases that foxes are prone to. This work is all done in order to raise awareness around natural preservation.
The book takes some creative liberties, as when it imagines what Mr. Fox’s perspective might be on Russell’s experiences, or when it reconsiders the differences between the fox’s world and Russell’s from the fox’s vantage. These imaginative forays are complemented by Russell’s musings on what the woods might seem like through Mr. Fox’s eyes. He posits that the fox is teaching him important lessons: to slow down; or to take in the sunrise and notice bird sounds. He is prompted to follow the fox into places in the forest that he had not previously been to, too. These embellishments are delightful, celebrating the beauty of nature and drawing wisdom from it.
The anthropomorphizing extends to other creatures, too, including Beacon, Russell’s dog, who is is characterized as loyal; Google, a quiet shelter dog who’s enthusiastic about taking walks; and woodland creatures in the fox’s circle, including an owl, a deer, and a heron, all of whom are humanized to fill out Mr. Fox’s world. Black and white photographs of their natural habitats complement these accounts. However, the fact that most of the time that Russell spends in nature is uneventful leads to lulls in the story, which concentrates on the animals’ noises and on periods of rest; the book becomes livelier when it covers natural excitement, like a fight between foxes and an incident of near drowning.
Part memoir, part nature text, Fox World derives lessons and inspiration from interactions with a fox in his natural setting.
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