I am not really a cat person. I just like my cat. Kat. True I will occasionally stop to have a quick conversation with any interesting-looking cat I might meet on the street, but I do that with dogs as well although rarely small, fluffy ones. I didn’t choose Kat. I had gone along to the animal shelter in Suva, Fiji, determined to adopt a puppy but a last minute reality check said that wasn’t going to work. As I turned to leave I passed a huge cage filled with dozens of kittens and thought my shirt had become snagged on the wire cage. In reality, I had been very purposefully snagged by the razor sharp claws of Kat (that’s the name on the pet passport I was given when we left together although I later realised that it was probably the name written on the pet passport of every cat there.) Pick me. Pick me. PICK ME, she squeaked (meowing is still not one of her natural accomplishments). So I did. And now she lives a pampered existence in Sydney, Australia, repaying me with hysterical antics, hours of smoochy affection and occasional snooty disregard in retaliation for some hard-to-identify error by me.
Dellarobia Turnbow has put on her second-hand boots and is climbing the steep wooded hillside behind her remote Appalachian home to start a love affair, “risking everything, pointing her little chin up that hill and walking unarmed into the shoot-out of whatever might be.”
But it is not the affair that is going to transform her life. Before she can even meet up with her would-be lover, she is brought to a standstill by the valley blazing “with its own internal flame” of “trees turned to fire” “a valley of lights”.
The orange that Dellarobia first thought was fire is millions and millions of orange Monarch Butterflies hanging in vast living curtains from the trees. To some locals they are unwanted intruders lying in the way of plans to raze the hillsides to earn desperately needed money. Others see them as a potential tourism attraction.
But to the scientists they are a portend of environmental disaster. The butterflies would normally be congregating in Mexico but clear felling their habitation has disrupted their life cycle. They have instead being lulled into a false sense of security by the warm summer months. And soon, the season change will create a harsh climate that will inevitable annihilate them, potential fatally disrupting the biological chain of which they are a part.
It had started as a perfectly normal day for Joe Coutts, still slightly amazed at the recent transition into his teens, awaiting the return of his mother Geraldine to their home on a fictional Ojibwe nation reservation in North Dakota.
When Geraldine doesn’t return it doesn’t take long for alarm bells to ring for Joe and his father, Bazil, a tribal judge. “Women don’t realize how much store men set in the regularity of their habits,” says Joe, who is the voice of The Round House “ … our pulse is set to theirs and as always on a weekend afternoon we were waiting for my mother to start us ticking away on the evening.”
But Geraldine has been violently attacked and raped, narrowly escaping with her life. She withdraws emotionally and physically from her family and the world, refusing to leave her bedroom and giving no details of the attacks. There is a stifling sense of resignation among the community that the perpetrator will never be properly hunted and brought to legal justice.