Written: February 5, 2015
On the back, the novel is introduced as a guy, tired of his life, accidentally hits a hare and then goes off into the wilderness to nurture the hare back to health. I imagined it to be some Thoreau-like escapade in the wilderness sans humanity, but while most of the book takes place in the Finnish wilderness, he encounters nothing but other humans and implausible hijinks. The hijinks uncover the weaknesses of civilized humanity, our shallowness, our greed, cruelty, insanity…, and pointless existence. The only meaningful thing comes from nature, and Vatanen, the hare-whisperer, has found meaning in the wilderness like Thoreau and Gary Snyder. While it doesn’t get as philosophical as those two, the encounters with humans is an indictment of them as the craziest animals in the forest. We are also accompanied by the hare which latches on to Vatanen like his mother and endures all sorts of harrowing threats from dogs and bears to drunken partiers. It’s a funny, suspenseful, tense, adventurous story that seems all too improbable but none-the-less entertaining. If you want a concise, albeit, incomplete summary of the book, it can read on page 188 and 189 in a 22-count list of crimes against him. Don’t worry, this is not one of those twisted stories of a hero who is an immoral psychopath. The crimes against him are just another indictment against humanity which uses rules not to reflect their moral values but rather their desire for authoritarian control, hierarchy, conformity, and nonsensical oppression. Someone once listed every possible human story into several or a dozen types, i.e., man strives for success and struggles with adversity, man chases woman, man gains then loses everything sometimes gets something back, etc. We should add, person escapes civilization back to nature, nature reveals how fucked up civilization is. Quick, fast-paced, fun read. The most important lesson perhaps is that humans tend to try to destroy things they cannot exploit, control, or understand. Spoiler alert: Vatanen too commits this sin by chasing down and killing a bear.