“We all own a beast called anger. It can serve us: many good things come of anger at bad things; many unjust things are made just. But first we all have to figure out how to civilize it.”
Sara Pennypacker has written a book ostensibly for children and young adults, but like so many strong works of this genre, its story and its messages resonate with adult readers. In “Pax”, Pennypacker tells the story of twelve year old Peter and his fox Pax whom he has raised since Pax was a kit. Separated at the command of Peter’s father and in the face of imminent war, Peter and Pax endure extreme hardship and learn critical lessons about who they really are as they struggle to find their way back to each other.
Pax is a book about undying friendship, about loyalty, and about war. Pax learns of war from his fellow foxes, who explain to him that “[t]here is a disease that strikes foxes sometimes. It causes them to abandon their ways, to attack strangers. War is a human sickness like this.” At a concurrent moment hundreds of miles away, Peter is forced to evaluate what he has been told about the war. When he suggests that this father is fighting the war on the ‘right side’, he is met by the bitter and utterly true question: “Do you think anyone in the history of this world ever set out to fight for the wrong side?”
Most of all, this book is about learning who we really are, when all of the narratives, assumptions and experiences of the world are stripped away. It is about discovering that self, finding a sense of purpose, and cultivating peace.
“I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.”