Ask Now the Beasts, by Ruth Rudner ( 2007)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book is a collection of 23 short essays. Each
essay is about a particular experience the author had. As the title
suggest, these experiences involve animals. The animals in this book
include dogs, horses, and cats--familiar to any reader. But then there
were the more exotic animals, such as penguins and walruses that she
encountered in Antarctica. Other animals that appeared in her essays
include gorillas, mules, coyotes, hawks, ducks, and wolves.
Two things about the author become apparent right
First, she's an accomplished writer. Her grammar
is flawless (such an oddity, these days), her composition is clear, and
her writing style is engaging. This is perhaps why her work has appeared
in several major newspapers and magazines, and perhaps why she has other
books to her credit.
The second thing is her respect for animals. For
example, she respects horses as individuals. None of the essays revolve
around generalized notions, such as "love the planet." All of them
revolve around Runder's thoughts and feelings in her encounters with
various individual animals. Some of these were domestic, some were wild.
All were respected.
In many of the essays, Rudner reveals a lesson the
animal taught her. In others, she just observes without feeling a need
to draw any lesson at all. Some of the essays are quite touching, for
example when Rudner reveals the joy of holding a baby gorilla or when
she fondly recalls her special relationship with her dog Blue.
A few of the essays are sad, as when Rudner shares
her heartache over losing two horses during a summer storm. She ponders
how an animal can be living and vital one minute, and simply dead the
Rudner frequently talks about the relationship
between life and death, and how they are intertwined. She observed this
in such brutal environments as Antarctica and in such familiar
environments as her own backyard.
Another thing that Rudner frequently talks about
is personally connecting with the animals she encounters. She sees them
as the living, feeling creatures that they are. And knowing this, they
respond to her. If you are the kind of person who orders the family dog
about, you won't understand this. If, on the other hand, you are the
kind of person who interacts with that dog and understands exactly what
the dog is saying to you, then you also understand the kinship theme
that underlies these essays.
If you are that first person, consider this book
essential for your personal growth. If you approach it with open eyes,
what you learn could enrich your life on many levels.
If you are that second person, you will enjoy this
book because it will resonate with you. It'll probably bring back
memories of your own wonderful interactions with the animals you've
encountered. In my case, I fondly recalled the time I was tending my
garden and a robin hen perched only a few feet from me. She looked right
at me and sang one lovely song after another. I sat quietly and
listened. Perhaps you have had similar encounters of your own.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.