I am not usually a fan of animal stories; I have always invested in books that focused on human characters. So it is surprising that I found Pax by Sara Pennypacker so much more than a book about a boy and his fox. Told from alternating points of view, this novel tells the story of Peter and Pax. When Peter's father must head off to war (and I am not entirely clear on which one or where), he makes Peter leave Pax in the woods rather than take him along to his grandfather's.
Throughout the novel, the reader's heart is constantly torn between Pax's story, hungry and alone in a wild world that he has never known, and Peter's struggle to journey alone to reunite with his best friend. Along the way, Pax is befriended by Gray, Bristle and Runt, while Peter must face the ghosts of his past when he is rescued by Vola. She too has suffered because of lives she took in a war, and Peter must overcome his guilt over the death of his mother and over leaving Pax alone to fend for himself.
Pennypacker brings Pax, the red fox, to life in the story. His resourcefulness and resilience is powerful because the voice is so strong. Her narrative reflects her exhaustive research into the life of the fox in the wild, detailing his hunting methods and his habitats. Pax is introduced to raw prey when Bristle "...bit through the rat's neck, then dropped it to the ground (37)." In the forest, he "speaks" to his newfound companions, shares dens which allowed for a view of "approaching predators" (58), begins to rely on scent to survive, and learns "All humans are dangerous...." (86).
I could never have predicted the turns of this tale. It is one of adventure, of family, or forgiveness and heartache. Peter is determined to travel 300-miles in a war-torn land to find forgiveness from Pax, and what he must endure on the journey will have the reader holding his breath.