I have really struggled to put into words just how much I loved this book. I am reduced to flailing in the direction of my phone, wildly gesticulating.
Let me start by saying I don’t read a ton of Magical Realism. I tend to want to go all-in with fantasy, to be immersed in a world that I either don’t recognize at all or only lightly recognize (such as in Urban Fantasy). But the magical realism of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance drew me in so completely.
Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads.
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.
The story unfolds in sections, from different parts of Weylyn’s life. Through the perspectives of others, we get to see different interpretations of Weylyn and some of the situations he finds happening around him. These different points of view sections tell the poignant and heartbreaking stories of not only Weylyn, but the person telling us the story. They remind us that everyone is the protagonist of their own story, living with their own challenges, heartbreak, and victories. Weylyn is the central thread tying all of these other, richly developed characters together.
My only gripe with the book was that Weylyn is a serial abuser of the “leaving for others own good without talking to them first” trope. So much heartbreak and lost time could have been avoided if he’d just TALKED to Mary. But, that might not have made for such great reading. And great reading it was.
I listened to the audiobook, lent to me by a friend and I highly recommend it. The recording is done by four different narrators, and they all knock it out of the park. If you’re an audiobook listener, definitely make an effort to listen to Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.
Ruth Emmie Lang’s debut novel is poignant, moving and full of beautifully wrought sentences crafted with care and full of metaphor. I will absolutely be watching for what she puts out next.