[clickToTweet tweet=”Book Review: Jean Ryan’s Strange Company.” quote=”In the oddest moments – spreading mulch, washing a plate, buttoning a child’s coat – we are suddenly, inexplicably, happy. – Jean Ryan”]

Strange Company
Jean Ryan
Kindle Edition $2.99

“It hurts to be alive, too much and too often for pleasure to be the point; much of the time we manage without it. Now and again we are taken by surprise. In the oddest moments – spreading mulch, washing a plate, buttoning a child’s coat – we are suddenly, inexplicably, happy.” – Jean Ryan, Strange Company

“Do lizards fall in love? What do sloths think about all day? Why is the blood of a horseshoe crab so valuable? Do starlings flock for fun? Can a parrot serve as a therapist? Do turtles ever grow bored with their long lives? Why would a crow foster a kitten? Can snails be fearless?” – from the book description

In her stunning new essay collection on the natural world around us, some within reach, some forever gone, Jean Ryan accomplishes what few writers can: educating while also provoking self-reflection. In an utterly unique way, she marries curiosity about nature with curiosity about the human condition. I’ve read Ryan’s fiction and consider it among the finest. And then, to my surprise (mild simply because I would expect no less from someone this gifted), she presents essays about animals, insects and human beings with the same depth and perceptiveness in her fiction.

Author Jean Ryan

Ryan’s talent is unique. These essays ignite my curiosity and fascination in ways I experienced as a child learning about the world around me for the first time. Each short essay is perfectly contained and written in absolutely precise language. She manages to keep the reader engrossed while wondering, “How did she do that?” I always have the sense with her writing that what I have read could not have been one word longer or shorter. Her essays and stories are like looking at a Fabergé egg: nothing is missing, and nothing needs to be added. Magic with words.

Strange Company is a book to be both devoured and savored. It manages to be stunning and delicate at the same time. When finished with one of her essays, I have the feeling that I’ve just enjoyed a perfect meal. The information she provides about these animals and insects and, in many cases, her interactions with them either directly or as a most astute observer, is thoroughly captivating. We see each subject through Ryan’s eyes as they connect with our minds. Layered, textured, eloquent and elegant, Strange Company is a book I will not forget.

Mark McNease