In a modern take on both Kafka and T.H. White, a young girl learns about life as a human by spending time in her pet ferret’s world.
At 14, Fiona Forrest has already had her share of life’s disappointments. Her living situation is comfortable enough; her 3-year-old brother Rickie is largely bearable and her father, though emotionally bottled, is a fairly successful house builder in the Ontario area. But at the start of Haskin’s confident, hugely engaging young adult novel, Fiona’s mother is “a painful and hurtful non-event,” having left home and stayed incommunicado. Fiona’s father resignedly says Mom is going through a personal crisis and needs time away, but the whole thing is so raw and confusing to Fiona that there are many times when she wishes she could join her alert, intelligent ferret Bandit in the comparative peace and stability of his cage. However, when the story obliges and Fiona suddenly finds herself ferret-sized and able to talk with Bandit, things turn out to be not so idyllic. Bandit—a positively hilarious creation, by turns timorous and pompous with lessons about “the way of the ferret,” a kind of furry Falstaff—is indulgent but unimaginative (although one of his strongest maxims, “Ferrets never surrender,” is something Fiona takes to heart) and the two of them have a whole book’s worth of adventures together, from perilous encounters with a great horned owl and a rat to an enlightening chance meeting with a skunk (“We are sorely misunderstood,” he says). Along the way, Fiona and Bandit become closer friends than either ever expected and Fiona rethinks all of the problems in her much missed human life. Haskin’s book is full of fine writing, fun dialogue (Fiona has a way with deadpan quips) and a multilayered, believable and thoroughly heartwarming ending.
An absolutely wonderful debut with the potential to become a YA classic.