I worked as a secretary for several months before I got a new coworker. Janette shared the lobby area with me and came with a positive attitude and a big education. I looked up to her, and eventually I met her husband. He is a remarkable person, just like she is. He towers some six feet five inches, loves books as much as I do (or more), and has Tourette’s syndrome. I had never known anybody with Tourette’s before, but Josh was patient with my lack of understanding and answered all of my questions.
Soon our conversations revolved around books instead. I always had a book with me, to read in the bus during my commute or to read during my lunch hour. My coworker loved to read as well, and she suggested that I try Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. It remains one of my favorite books.
The book that I remember her husband Josh recommending to me was Watership Down (1972), number 94 on the BBC book list. I had never heard of it, but I trusted his opinion and I immediately found a copy. As I began reading, I wasn’t sure I would like the book. It was strange. It was about animals. Rabbits to be exact, and they talked to each other, behaved like human beings in many ways, and had their own civilization. It took some getting used to.
Then the drama began. These talking rabbits, strange to my view, suddenly faced great danger. Their warren was to be destroyed by “progress.” The field they lived in would soon be developed and they would have nowhere to live, work, and play. I began to empathize with the rabbits, and I worried for their safety.
The rest of the book is their journey to find a new place to live. As they travel, they meet other rabbits, dangerous farmers and dogs, and ultimately deal with the difficulties one could expect on a long journey. I was hooked and intrigued. They met rabbits who were calm and seemingly domesticated. From the perspective of these wild rabbits, something was terribly wrong, but they were not sure what. Then they realized that these rabbits were accustomed to having the nearby farmer take them and kill them every so often. They were rabbits raised for the slaughter. The wild rabbits ran.
They find themselves in the company of controlling rabbits, and must even fight for freedom and autonomy. This is another intense scene, one that reflects human interactions and greed for power. Apparently, rabbit culture is susceptible to dictators as well.
Overall, it was a strange read to get used to, but once I suspended my disbelief, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I have read it again since then, and I liked it just as much the second time. There’s something about talking bunnies that apparently captivates me. Richard Adams is a brilliant creator, one who thinks outside of the box and has found success writing about animals with a human frame on top. It is anthropomorphism, and it’s delightful. I’m glad to have had Josh recommend this book to me. And ultimately, I am glad to have met Josh and Janette, for they introduced me to two books that I can’t imagine not having read.
In addition to reading voraciously, Josh always wrote his own books. He planned to be an author someday. That day is coming. On May 2, his book, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, will be released. Check it out on Amazon here.