“The purpose of Lent has always been to startle us awake to the true state of our hearts and the world we’ve made. Which wakes an aching, wild hope that something new might be born of the ruin.” —Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gayle Boss, p. 8 (Paraclete Press, 2020).
I first became familiar with Gayle Boss’ thoughtful approach to the animals we share this world with in her book for Advent, All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, which I reviewed for Spectrum in 2016.
This year, Boss and illustrator David G. Klein are back with a new collection of animal stories for Lent, Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing. While All Creation Waits chronicled the mystery, anticipation, and danger for animals hibernating through the winter months, Wild Hope tells the grief-filled stories of animals on the verge of extinction — from disease, destruction of habitats, climate change, and poachers. Unlike her first book, which focused solely on the animals, these stories also document the efforts of scientists and conservationists around the world who have dedicated their careers to solving the man-made devastation that has been wreaked on these animals.
There is the Sumatran Orangutan whose habitat has been razed for more and more oil palm tree plantations to keep up with the human demand for this versatile product. There are the Laysan Albatross chicks who are fed a steady diet by their attentive parents, not just of the squid and fish eggs they need to grow strong, but of the many plastics that contaminate the oceans including “fishing lures, cigarette lighters, golf balls, and plastic bottle caps” (80) that will lead to their death before they ever experience their first flight. There are the intelligent, playful Black Rhinoceros and African Elephants who are slaughtered and mutilated for their tusks.
And there are so many more. Boss tells the stories of 25 of these animals, inviting us to lament in the suffering and ruin that our species has caused them. But as with Lent itself, we are not called to remain in our grief, but to be awakened:
“The promise of Lent is that something will be born of the ruin, something so astoundingly better than the present moment that we cannot imagine it. Lent is seeded with resurrection. The Resurrection promises that a new future will be given to us when we beg to be stripped of the lie of separation, when the hard husk suffocating our hearts breaks open and, like children again, we feel the suffering of any creature as our own. That this can happen is the wild, not impossible hope of all creation” (8).
Every short chapter in Wild Hope is heartbreaking. It is a difficult, moving book that is confronting and uncomfortable for the reader, but as Boss says in her introduction, “hearts broken open in love create a new ark.” May this Lenten season be a time of awakening, a time of compassion, and above all a time of wild, indescribable hope for all of us.
Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gayle Boss and illustrated by David G. Klein is available now from Paraclete Press and various book sellers including Amazon. For more information on the plight of the species included in this book and how you can help, visit https://paracletepress.com/products/wild-hope
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org
Book cover image courtesy of Paraclete Press.
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