Both poetical and disturbing

Martin Marten - Brian  Doyle

I’m very conflicted about how I feel about this book.  On one hand, I loved its beauty and its connection with humans, animals, trees and nature.  It struck me emotionally so many times.  I laughed and I cried.  I felt each of the characters were known to me, both human and animal, and I wished many times that I could be part of their circle.  Dave, Maria, Martin the Marten, Miss Moss, Mr. Douglas, Edwin the Horse, Unable Lady, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson – all characters that I hated to say goodbye to at the end of the book.  Sections of this book struck me to the core.  There are little stories throughout the book that are true treasures.   Suspense, love, loss, grief, growing up, heartbreak – all contained in this book.


However, I have to say that I did find parts of this book offensive.  I do believe that this author and I share a love for animals or he couldn’t have written so movingly about the affinity one species has with the other.   But the book also contained rationalizations for the trapping of animals for their fur, such as when a trapper kills a fox, he saves the many animals that the fox would have killed.   The animals are depicted as killers among themselves so why would it be any different for us to kill them.  As for eating animals, the book states that humans are omnivorous mammals and that we have no choice in what we eat.  There’s talk about how we must kill animals with respect and reverence for the life we’re taking.  There’s even the statement that since vegetables are alive sentient beings, vegetarians kill them for food.  All of this goes deeply against my personal beliefs.


It’s my hope that the parts of the book that deal with the death of the animals and depict beautiful creatures being strangled by wire traps will do its own work in readers’ hearts and minds. I do believe that it may very well have been the author’s intent to make those scenes especially vivid for just that purpose.  After all, one of the main characters in the book is a marten and it’s his struggle for survival that’s one of the main components of the book.  This is the first book I’ve read by this author and possibly others who have read more of his work would have better insight into his reasons for telling his story in this manner.  But it’s a bit unclear to me what his intention is as the fur trapper was a very good man in every other way and seemed very confident in his right to kill animals for their fur.  Only one young boy showed any objection to the trapping, calling it murder, but everyone else was very accepting of it.  I can see this as a book that will open up much discussion and debate.


Though there were those sections that really got my hackles up, I still liked this book very much.  That’s how beautiful and poetical it is.  It will strike a chord with you on one page and then disturb you on the next.  I truly did not want this book to end and wanted to stay awhile longer in the little hamlet of Zigzag.  Several times throughout the book the author says “but that’s a story for another book” and I hope he means it. 


I was given the opportunity to read this book by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.