Loyalty, courage and determination face-off against an impending war, destruction of habitat and the horrors that mankind is capable of. This animal story of an unbreakable bond, an unforgivable betrayal and a journey against the odds is not for the faint-hearted.
It had only been a matter of months after the death of his mother that seven-year-old Peter found the orphaned fox cub that he would name Pax. For five years he nurtured the young fox under his father’s stern gaze. Peter’s father had agreed that he could keep the fox, “For a while.” But the truth was his father tolerated Pax rather than embraced him. When war arrives and Peter’s father joins the soldiers, Peter’s world is turned upside down. It is an easy decision for his father to abandon Pax at the roadside and to drive Peter hundreds of miles away to the home of his grandfather, just another one of the evacuated children. Alone with his thoughts, Peter quickly realises that not fighting more for Pax was a huge mistake and so he sets out to find him. Peter and Pax, both tame, need to grow wild quickly if they are to be reunited.
Pax is both beautiful and brutal. It is a tale of a special human-animal bond that only those who have experienced such a close relationship with a wild animal or pet will truly understand and a journey both physically and emotionally for fox and boy. It is finding the courage to do what needs to be done and summoning up the determination to succeed no matter the challenges that you face.
As is often the case in stories about war and displacement, it is the children and animals that suffer the most. Peter and Pax find themselves separated through no fault of their own and are left to try to piece their lives back together all the while retaining hope of being reunited. The story is told from a dual perspective with chapters alternating between Pax and Peter which allow each narrative to evolve independently before coming to a united ending that will not please everyone.
Pax is not a read for sensitive souls. Set against the backdrop of an impending war, bad things happen to animals and to people. Big and upsetting topics are dealt with - the consequences of war, death and the impact of man on the natural world - some events described in detail that would be too much for some. The cast of characters all carry their own baggage and references are made to abuse, anger, PTSD and anxiety. The book could easily be consumed by grief and heavy heartedness but much of the story is about hope and redemption and being at peace with the world and those around you.
Pax will not be suited to everyone but it will stir up strong feelings and emotions in those that read it.
Recommended for 9+.