About the Author
In her highly anticipated new novel, Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Alissa York creates a contemporary human fable that taps into the great tenderness and drama at the heart of the animal world.
The wide ravine that bisects the city is home to countless species of urban wildlife, including human waifs and strays. When Edal Jones can't cope with the casual cruelty she encounters in her job as a federal wildlife officer, she finds herself drawn to a beacon of solace nestled in the valley under the unlikely banner of an auto-wrecker's yard. Guy Howell, the handsome proprietor, offers sanctuary to animals and people alike: a half-starved hawk and a brood of orphaned raccoon kits, a young soldier whose spirit failed him during his first tour of duty, a teenage runaway and her massive black dog. Guy is well versed in the delicate workings of damaged beings, and he might just stand a chance at mending Edal's heart.
But before love can bloom, the little community must come to terms with a different breed of lost soul - a young man whose brutal backwoods childhood is catching up with him, causing him to persecute the creatures that call the valley home.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is troubling Edal? How does Guy help her?
2. Has Fauna changed your view of animals and city life? Does it reflect anything in your own experience?
3. How is the book structured, and why? Why does it cut between past and present and different points of view?
4. From story time at Howell Auto Wreckers to Letty’s house, Fauna is (sometimes literally) full of books. What do these other books add to the novel?
5. If you’ve read Alissa York’s previous novels, such as Effigy or Mercy, how do you compare Fauna with them?
6. How are the characters in Fauna linked? Consider the small coincidental connections between them (such as moments when one sees another from a subway train window) to the more profound emotional bonds.
7. How does the unusual family in Fauna provide the sanctuary that traditional families often cannot? What’s the importance of the “modern family” in this book?
8. What role does death play in the novel? What do the characters say about death and how do they respond to it? You might consider how Fauna treats the deaths of animals and people differently (or similarly), and the importance of mourning and burial in the novel.
9. What is the significance of the title, Fauna? Can you think of any alternative titles you might give this book?
10. Why did Alissa York include the sections in the novel written from the perspective of a raccoon or bat? Are they effective? What do they add to the overall narrative?
11. The novel features a large, well-rounded cast of characters. Who affects you most deeply, and why? Who do you find most interesting? Are there any characters you don’t connect with, and if so why do you think that is?
12. What does love accomplish in Fauna? How do people demonstrate love? Do animals experience love?
13. How does York create sympathy for her characters? You might focus on the more troubled individuals, such as Darius.
14. In what sense is Toronto’s Don Valley a character in the novel? How do the settings contribute to the story and to your sense of the characters?
15. What does Lily learn in Fauna?
16. Were you surprised by what happens to Darius at the close of the novel? How do you explain it?
17. How would you describe Alissa York’s writing style in Fauna? (You may find it helpful to compare Fauna to her other work, or to that of other writers.) Would you call it lyrical, pared-down, lush, hypnotic . . . ? What effect does it have on you?
18. Will you recommend Fauna to your friends? Why or why not?