When Catherine Raven finished her PhD in biology, she built herself a tiny cottage on an isolated plot of land in Montana. Then one day she realized that a mangy-looking fox was showing up on her property every afternoon at 4:15 p.m. She had never had a regular visitor before. How do you even talk to a fox? Her scientific training had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, yet as she grew to know him, his personality revealed itself and they became friends.
What emotional vocabulary can express both the joy and the doubts she experienced devoting copious time and love to a wild creature? This fanciful, literate, unsentimental and yet deeply felt memoir is her answer ... Every story demands a language of its own and Raven chooses a fluid, swift-moving style, which takes some getting used to ... She’s a superb nature writer, who also delves into cultural topics, such as the fox icons found in Inari temples in Japan ... More than most books, Raven’s sets out unique, even eccentric, terms, and she uses fictional techniques to round out her account, including sections told from Fox’s perspective. If a reader is willing, the experience of journeying alongside her as she lives with Fox and meditates about him is extremely rewarding ... Fox & I will appeal to those who despair about human depredation of the natural world and sense climate change as the looming, existential threat to life. But Raven’s book isn’t a treatise, it isn’t a call to arms, it isn’t political. Perhaps it is best understood as a plea for understanding.
Catherine Raven’s story about her relationship with a wild red fox, is likely to find a receptive audience. But readers might also ask, given the well-trodden ground on this topic, whether there’s much new to say ... Like Ms. Macdonald and Mr. Hamer, Ms. Raven had turned to nature as a salve for psychic wounds ... A self-described 'pathologically private' person, Ms. Raven is sometimes reticent to a fault ... A passing mention of a news event places Fox’s arrival in 2005, but Ms. Raven’s memoir avoids specific dates.The effect of such omissions is to render a narrative that sometimes seems fabulistic and outside time, which is perhaps what Ms. Raven intends ... Fox and I explores whether true friendship is possible between people and creatures of the wild. Ms. Raven seems to recognize that the concept will strike many readers as strange, but she appears drawn to such things precisely because they can’t easily be quantified ... mysterious and magical.
... an unnerving, contemplative look at solitude and the connections we make with the outside world. For the reader, there’s a palpable sense of dread that keeps the pages moving: Fox won’t live forever. Yet Raven, who knows that well, writes with a refreshingly unsentimental hand. Her main concern isn’t the expiration date of their time together, but how she categorizes and comes to terms with the animal’s presence in her life ... Readers may be tempted to skip over the details in Fox & I that seem irrelevant: the lengthy history of a weed; sentences spent describing Fox lying out on his favorite boulder. But Raven is at her best here, demanding our patience and rewarding those who pay attention with lush prose that coalesces into a dreamy portrait of wildlife.