Penguin, $14.00, 194 pages
Most people are familiar with stories about princesses, evil stepmothers, and glass slippers. Arto Paasilinna’s The Year of the Hare, first published in 1975, is one fairy tale that will be new to all readers. Vatanen, a journalist in Finland, becomes attached to a hare after hitting him with his car. The man adopts him rather than dropping him off at a vet. Vatanen packs a bag, leaves his wife, and begins a year long journey through the Finnish countryside. The bunny hops along and accompanies Vatanen as he fights fires, rebuilds a ski lodge, herds cows, and dines with diplomats. Bears, vicious dogs, and a hungry crow try to stop their wandering. But a traveling spirit helps keep them on their path.
Paasilinna’s story should be read slowly and each adventure savored. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2011 is the Year of the Hare. This story celebrates the relationship between a man and his furry companion. The hare is a great character and provides much of the comic relief. Even though it was Vatanen who saved the hare, it is really the hare that changes Vatanen’s life for the better. This is sure to be a well loved tale.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin