Pax is a book I will read again. I was amazed with how this book approached difficult topics, such as general effects of war, parental issues, and effects of being away from natural habitat (for Pax). I thought I was reading a children’s book (or maybe I was) but I definitely got more than what I was expecting. A nice kind of surprise, definitely.
It is a recommended read, especially for parents who may be having a hard time discussing war and its consequences to their children. Though, some scenes may be avoided when reading it to kids (clue: mine field).
Pax was a surprise. I thought I chose a light read about a friendship between a boy and his pet fox.. not realizing I am in for more than that. The book did have loose ends and unexplained bits; but, for me, it focused on the right stuff to make the material work.
It all starts when Peter left Pax on the road as instructed by his father. Then, upon realizing he made a mistake, he embarks on an improbable journey to get Pax back. Crudely prepared, it was definitely a surprise how far he got.
His biggest roadblock, however, happened when he injured his leg. Luckily, Vola was around to feed and treat him. Vola was a war veteran/survivor and was living in solitude in a barn her grandparents owned to find herself and her peace.
As a reader, you will feel the scars she carried with her –
I realized something then: that even though he was a man, even though he was a different race, even though he had grown up in a different country—we might have had a lot in common.
The supermarket scene after she got back was also very sad. From her voice in the narrative, you would understand how she lost herself in the war. She lived in solitude to get away from it all and remind herself of her truths.
“I have more than everything I need.” Vola sat. “I have peace here.” “Because it’s so quiet?” “No. Because I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace. Eat.”
In the end, Peter pays it forward to Vola as he helped her gather enough strength to integrate somehow with the community. It was great to see how their relationship developed through the narrative.
Pax, on the other hand, was left to fend for himself. Given that he was raised as a pet, he had a hard time at first. Natural instincts were not fully developed given his exposure to a domestic life.
Luckily, he meets other foxes along the way and was able to gain their trust (though it was not easy). He somehow gains a mentor in a vixen named Bristle, especially as her little broth Runt grew fond of Pax.
Months have passed and when their paths crossed again, it was time for Peter to make his choice – keep Pax or let him go.
I liked how it ended.
My favorite quote from the book is this:
“Plenty hard. The plain truth can be the hardest thing to see when it’s about yourself. If you don’t want to know the truth, you’ll do anything to disguise it.”
This is one of Vola’s words of wisdom to Peter. I think it helped Peter come to terms with himself and embrace how he is – doing what he feels is right without fear of his father.