In the Time of Foxes (Scribner 2020) is a collection of literary short stories by author Jo Lennan. The opening story – and probably my favourite – with the same title as the anthology, is a lovely analogy about foxes and the tunnelled caverns in which they make their homes, and the increasingly absent black spaces of the elderly as age and/or dementia tunnels through their minds. It is a simple and eloquent story.
Some readers avoid short story collections because they dislike jumping from one topic to another – that feeling that you are just getting into a story and then it ends and another begins. (I’m the opposite – I love the quirkiness of short story collections that often range far and wide in content, style and form). But for those of you who might be of the former persuasion, then In the Time of Foxes might be a good bridging collection from which you start. For while each of these stories is completely different, there is a certain sameness to the writing, a consistency, a familiarity with the characters that almost makes it read like a novel.
And of course there is the theme of foxes which permeates the entire book. Every story has some reference to a fox. In the opening story, foxes are front and centre. In some of the stories they make only a passing appearance, or it is not an actual fox that is referred to, but someone of foxlike appearance, or a plant with fox in its name, or in some stories it is just the word fox used somewhere in the text, with a very tangential link. But again, this serves to collate the stories together and to bind them with a common theme.
My other favourite in this collection is Catch and Release – a meeting between a lawyer and his client that doesn’t go to plan; the rising tension and sense of impending danger is compelling.
Overall, this is a sound, strong collection that is accessible and easy to read and that covers a lot of ground while managing to keep the reader tethered. And the fox metaphor is a really nice touch.