This tale of family dynamics begins with comic undertones which are jolted by a shift in perception a quarter of the way in. The silence, self-delusion and guilt of family life find echoes in dysfunctional relationships between humans and animals. Inspired by real-life experiments in the 1930s, this book explores issues of ethics, nature/nurture and animal rights - lots for reading groups to discuss, but could be distressing for some readers.
I would think better of myself now if, like Lowell, I’d been angry about Fern’s disappearance, but it seemed too dangerous just then to be mad at our parents and I was frightened instead. There was also a part of me relieved, and powerfully, shamefully so, to be the one kept and not the one given away. Whenever I remember this, I try also to remember that I was only five years old. I’d like to be fair here, even to myself. It would be nice to get all the way to forgiveness, though I haven’t managed it yet and don’t know that I ever will. Or ever should.