Do you or someone you know love books almost as much as their pet? These three books draw on the animals in our outer lives to illuminate the complexity of our inner lives.
For the Cat Lover: Not Wanted on the Voyage, by Timothy Findley
Canadian writer and multiple-award-winner Timothy Findley died in 2002, but one of his best known works, Not Wanted on the Voyage remains well-known and well-loved today.
At once a fable and a nightmare, the novel is an imaginative retelling of the story of Noah's Ark, replete with a cross-dressing Lucifer; a senile, chamomile-tea drinking Yahweh; a gin-smuggling wife; child brides; talking animals; miniature unicorns and multi-headed demons who love being thrown around in sacks – Not Wanted on the Voyage is a not your average Sunday School story.
The real star of the book, however, is Mottyl, a blind calico she-cat around whose stoic humour, loyalty and cunning the novel subtly revolves.
For The Horse Lover: The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
A minimalist classic, The Red Pony has no imitators in the canon of American Literature. On the surface this novella is simply about the love of a young boy for a red colt given to him on his birthday by his father. On a deeper level, which skilled and sensitive readers will feel much more acutely, it is a drama saturated with existential dread, the inevitability of death, the ache of despair and decay in our lives, the impossibility of a perfect dream.
Completely devoid of the absurd humour found in Steinbeck's later works like Cannery Row or Sweet Thursday, the detailed simplicity of The Red Pony, with it's all-too-real depiction of of a young man's hope, pain and longing, make this work a book that will always reveal something new to readers, no matter how many times its read.
This powerful book proves that books about horses are not “just for girls.”
For the Dog Lover: Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
A boy and his two dogs become much more than just a boy and two dogs in this novel about hope, love, loyalty and moving on.
Ostensibly a book for young adults, the novel is rich with the details of life in the Ozarks, which will charm readers of any age.
Indeed, the simple-style of this novel makes the frankness with which it deals with poverty, cruelty, death and disappointment all the more poignant and unforgettable. There is a movie version, but it fails to capture the slow-motion, transitory wonder of childhood with the warmth and devotion author Wilson Rawls brings to the page. If you ever suspect someone is a robot, give them this book to read; if they don't cry at the end, then they are most likely an agent of the impending cyborg uprising and should be turned over to the authorities.