Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
Y’all, I’m speechless. Not because this book is so amazing – although it is! No, I’m left without words because despite all the raving I’ve done to everyone (in person and online) about Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, I didn’t finish my review of it! How did this happen?
This is one of my favorite books of 2017. Read on to learn why!
Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 14th 2017
Genres: Magical Realism, Fantasy, Literary Fiction
Buy on Amazon
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 over night, 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 a house filled with spider webs 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.
In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder. (less)
I read Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance book in November and to be quite honest, it’s probably the reason why I didn’t get through as many advanced review copies as I would normally read in the holiday season (including a few Christmas reads.) I just had to slow down and savor it – it was just mesmerizing.
And when I finished it? I just wanted to linger in it. And maybe pick it up and read it again. This is one of those books for which I’m given a digital copy and end up buying the hard copy.
From the opening chapter – no, from the first few paragraphs – I was hooked.
The moment Weylyn took his first bewildered gulp of fresh air, it began to snow. Not just a few flurries, but buckets of the stuff, tumbling through the sky and belly flopping on the ground outside the hospital room window. By the tie the nurses had him cleaned and swaddled there was a good six inches on the ground.
It was June 29.
Debut author Ruth Emmie Lang has your attention now, doesn’t she?
Now, I’ve seen Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance described as magical realism – which I’m a HUGE fan of, by the way – but I’m honestly not sure whether it fits in magical realism or fantasy. Weylyn is a boy raised by wolves, but I’m not sure if it is this or just his own personality that gives him this raw honesty and a touch of naiveté that is appealing. He has powers, and like those characters found in magical realism novels, he doesn’t seem certain of them, he doesn’t always wield them intentionally and he often seems hesitant to use them. Until he does – and when he does, it’s pretty amazing.
He can control the weather, has a bit of a hold over nature and can communicate with animals, but this isn’t Charlotte’s Web or Doctor Dolittle.
One of the reasons I lingered so over the book is because it DOES require your attention, as the story is primarily told from the viewpoint of those he encounters throughout his life. Additionally, the timeline in which those viewpoints are shared jumps around from different points in his past and present and back to the past again, but not necessarily in chronological order. This was a book that told me “keep up, now” as his story unfolds, layer by layer. It’s like eating a slice of chocolate layer cake, but taking a bite of the raspberry filling in the middle, then the cake, then a nibble of icing alone, and then a bite combined. No seeming order to the timeline, but it comes together beautifully.
The story is beautifully told. For me, it is a story of being different and of finding acceptance. Weylyn often puts Mary’s happiness in front of his own – but doesn’t consider what his choice for HER actually means for her. All too often, we think we are doing what is best for someone else before we actually ask them what THEY want. I could relate to his struggles in that regard.
Ruth Emmie Lang has written an epic book with heart. It is truly magical (and not just because Weylyn can call up a storm or grow flowers or talk to his pet pig – who has horns.)
Never have I struggled to put words to WHY I love a book as much as I did this one! Similar to the book that I started the year with – The Bear and The Nightingale – this novel had a magical, lyrical, almost fairy tale like quality to it – but for adults. (For clarification – this book is entirely appropriate for middle school readers and up. My 11-year-old is anticipating my hard copy to arrive from the bookstore.) It was smart, charming and imaginative – really like nothing I’ve read before.
You can find a copy of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by clicking HERE.
Many, many thanks to NetGalley and the kind folks at St. Martin’s Press (who keep bringing us amazing authors and stories) for providing me with an advanced copy. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.
This book also included affiliate links which cost you nothing but help support my coffee habit.