My biggest beef with this book is that it has the same title as Jon Krakauer’s book about Christopher McCandless, which is a very different book than this one. Although now that I think about it, both follow a protagonist who chooses to leave behind a life in civilization for the comparative realness of the wilderness. But really, that’s where the similarity ends because McCandless went out on his own, Thoreau-style (but without as much thought about his wardrobe or really any other planning), while Rusty/Firepaw/Fireheart joins a clan of wild cats. And, of course, McCandless was not a cat.
Which leads me to my second-biggest beef with this book: Cats living in colonies. This Into the Wild mirrors Watership Down but with cats instead of rabbits. The only trouble is, I don’t think feral cats and wild rabbits have similar social structures. Maybe I’m totally off with this. I’ve not studied the large feral cat populations that live in Key West and at the University of Hawaii; maybe they act just like the four clans in Hunter’s book. I just had some trouble believing that cats would cooperate in the way that Hunter’s cats do, sharing food and territory and organizing to protect this shared territory from other clans. The feral cats I’ve encountered are all pretty loner-ish. Also, they don’t meow, which Hunter’s cats do a lot.
But like I said, I’m no expert on the group behaviors of feral cats.
In spite of these annoyances—and in spite of myself—I enjoyed the story. Every time I sat down to read it and looked at the cover illustration, I just felt ridiculous. I mean, I should be reading David Hume’s The History of England, Volume V, which I’ve been working on since June, and here I am with a book about the politics of a feral cat colony. It would be different if I were reading the book aloud to my kids, but that wasn’t the case. My eight-year-old read it on her own and then said, “Mommy! You HAVE to read this! It’s GREAT!” So it was my post-bedtime read for several nights.
The whole subplot with Yellowfang and how she gained the trust of the clan really drew me in. Was Yellowfang really guilty of the crimes with which she was charged? Would Firepaw finally tell Bluestar about Tigerclaw’s secret?
I just had to keep reading to find out.
And to avoid reading about the ill-fated reign of King Charles.