He’s dying. Dying of cancer. Clay Borne, Grandpa, is dying. John Borne knows it, but he can’t realize it. He can’t think of life with out Grandpa – it’s not that he won’t think of it or refuses to think of it, it’s just an impossibility. Life can’t happen without Grandpa.
They always hunt together on the first day of deer season. But this year, Grandpa decides to stay home. So John goes out by himself. He finds a deer and sets to tracking it, but as he locks gaze with the doe over his readied rifle, he finds he can’t shoot. He can’t give this beautiful deer death. Instead, he determines to cheat death, to track down this deer and to touch it – but not kill it.
This is the only way he can save Grandpa.
Gary Paulsen writes evocative fiction. I’ve said it many times that he is a real master of words. And yet, I still often give his books low ratings. Why?
Because every story he writes has an obvious agenda – an agenda he often doesn’t bother to hide. You know how sometimes you read a story with philosophical implications and you think, Wow, what a great story! The author really did a wonderful job fleshing out the implications of the plot and character lessons. And then other times you think, That story was written for no other reason than to communicate an over the top agenda. And that’s annoying.
In this story, John is having to come to grips with a very difficult idea – his grandfather’s death. As he tracks his deer, part of him wants to believe that by refusing to shoot the deer, by instead touching it and making it a friend, he will give his grandfather’s life back to him. By the end of the story, he realizes that this was a foolish idea, but he is still proud of himself for having cheated death and allowed a life to live.
When he decided not to “give the deer death”, I was honestly okay with his decision. After all, his family didn’t need the meat to survive – they had money and could purchase food. But then, he decided to track the beast down. I’ve already mentioned in my review of Wolf Hunt that while I recognize that killing animals – especially dangerous ones – is necessary, I don’t like reading stories that are based upon the systematic destruction of the animal’s will. Well, this story delivered the exact same, annoying tale of destruction and domination but over an animal that John had no need or intention to destroy.
I’m seriously surprised Paulsen wrote this story. I mean, he holds animals in high esteem. Thinks it’s stupid to kill them for fun. But he gave his protagonist the wild desire to track the deer down, strip it of its natural energies and spirit all to touch it. Seriously weird. There’s also this strange part…
In the night he changed.
In the night he changed from following the deer to becoming the deer. A part of him went out to the deer and a part of the deer went out of her into him, across the white light and he wasn’t the same. He would never be the same again. He was of the deer and the snow and the night and he kept himself but he lost his spirit and gained a new one. [pg. 76]
John says that he knew a man who got backed over by a tractor and he was the one who found him. He also talks about killing deer – where the bullets enter them, and how the blood flows out, etc. Lovely stuff.
‘D***’ is used twice.
Conclusion. Not the kind of hunting story I find satisfying (or helpful). Read A Nose for Trouble instead.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret