Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

What’s this?  A book review on a sewing blog?  That’s right.  Part of my 2018 plans for this blog is to use it to share my other loves, including (or especially) reading.

Last summer, I joined Book of the Month Club.  BOTM started as a book subscription and selection service WAY back in 1926.  Although the mechanics have changed (hello Internet!) it’s essential product has remained the same.  Every month 5 literary judges select one book each and write an essay reviewing said book.  For a subscription, you get one book credit every month and can select from any of the 5 books.  There is usually a range of styles and genres, though the selections weigh most heavily toward fiction works.  After you make the selection BOTM will ship a hard cover copy to you within the next week (shipping is included in the subscription fee).  The BOTM site also hosts a discussion board where you can talk with other readers about the books.  I found it to be a GREAT way to expand my horizons beyond the epic fantasy series that I usually devour.  Also, you can’t beat $15 for a hardcover novel, and there is always the option to skip a month.

 

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My October (yes, I’m a wee bit behind) selection was Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang.  It is Ms. Lang’s first novel (BOTM likes to feature new and debut authors, which I think is just wonderful).  From the book jacket description:

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places.  From freak storms to trees that appear to grow overnight, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best, and at worst a danger to himself and the woman he loves.  But Mary doesn’t care.  Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and house willed with spiderwebs and the strange man who inhabits it.  

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own.  But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

This is the first time I had ever read anything from the “magical realism” genre.  If you’ve ever seen Big Fish, it reminded me a little of that but (I think) better.  One of the cleverest devices that Ms. Lang used was to tell Weylyn’s story from the perspective of the people he affected: Roarke, the teenage boy who broke into middle-aged Weylyn’s spiderweb-shrouded house on a dare; Mary, the love of his life whom he met as an 11 year old girl aching to get away from the sadness in her home; Lydia, his foster sister who also didn’t quite fit in; Meg, his teacher; and Duane, his boss at the logging company.  Through them, we see Weylyn mature from a young, nearly-feral, boy full of optimism to a young man in love to a middle-aged man full of uncertainty and regret, all the while his inexplicable abilities, while amazing, tend to get in the way of his desire to live a normal life.

The story is told with such love and persistent hope that you can’t help be encouraged by this book.  Weylyn is one of those characters that will stay with you for a long time.  Even though his life is not easy, and eventually he becomes lonely and sad, he is stubbornly kind.  He makes choices that he believes (though at times mistakenly so) are best for those he loves, even when it means more loneliness and heartache on his part.  In a time and place where the news is nearly always depressing and our worst selves seem always on displace, this book left me feeling encouraged and reminded that, though we have a talent for cruelty, we each have a great capacity for kindness.

 

This post contains a referral link for Book of the Month Club.  Thank you for supporting my reading addiction!

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