Title: A touching and imaginative piece of writing
Content: “every person sitting and walking has hands too and I see all their hands and I know what their hands can do and what their hands would do and the violence waiting behind every motion” This is an enjoyably bananas novella, written in poetic fragments, about a mountain lion living in the Hollywood Hills. This lion is, naturally enough, consumed by bloodlust, but also curious about the human world around them, and treats us to a free-flowing internal monologue about the same. I find scattered sentences and free-form internal monologues hard to read, but they work well when read aloud. If you’re like me and prefer your novels to have a bit of structure, read the audiobook! It’s beautifully narrated, too, drawing you into the lion’s world. We follow the lion - we never learn their name - as they try to survive "Ellay" - say it aloud - despite ever-constant threats from pollution, starvation and human beings. Constantly followed by thirst and hunger, our protagonist nonetheless takes a keen interest in the world around them. Survival is first and foremost on their mind, but we also hear the lion’s thoughts on earthquakes, other lions, the habits and oddness of hikers who pass through, and it also manages to pack in a critique of capitalism, an exploration of loneliness, and a rallying cry against climate change into its 156 pages without ever feeling rushed or overstuffed. That’s a mark of a seriously impressive writer. I’ve seen this described as a profoundly voice-driven novel, and that’s very much the case - the mountain lion’s observations about the world around them are wry, sometimes scathing and sometimes heart-rending. Obviously, this novel is light enough on plot - the lion leaves their hunting grounds and heads towards the city after a crime is enacted on “their humans”. They befriend a young woman - these sections are some of the strongest in the book, a fever dream of human-animal connection that I found oddly devastating. The ending is also upsetting, if ambiguously so, and in the novel’s acknowledgements, Hoke mentions that a real-life city-dwelling mountain lion inspired this story. A touching and imaginative piece of writing that reminds the reader just how alike humans and animals can be.