How to be Human the debut novel from Paula Cocozza skirts the line between magical and maudlin. With all the beautiful, fairy-esque description and it’s way of turning things on their heads it reminded me very much of Rebecca Gransden’s Anemogram and Peter S Beagle’s Summerlong.
Mary is the main character in this novel. Recently separated from her long term boyfriend Mark, she is living alone in their old house with half of their belongings. It’s a sad state of affairs and one that many of us can identify with. Mary is lonely, she hates her job and her boss, she wants to do a masters degree but can’t find the time or motivation despite having nothing else to occupy her time. She has no friends and her father lives in Spain and her mother in Devon both with their new partners. Her neighbours have their own marital problems and a newborn to contend with. As far as they are concerned Mary is only good for babysitting duty. But then she finds The Fox, or maybe he finds her.
The Fox becomes a part of Mary’s life in a way which Goodreads blurb describes as ‘unseemly’. But for me it wasn’t that at all. It was weird in parts (think Fox at the dinner table eating frittata), but overall it was magical in a way that didn’t involve wands.
Mary and The Fox strike up a friendship, as her friends and neighbours set out to exterminate him, she finds a purpose in protecting him. One which she needs more than even she knows. Slowly as her relationship with The Fox grows, so does her own personal strength.
This is not as it first seems about a crazy woman befriending a Fox. It is a novel of self discovery, of pain and intense, complicating emotions which really highlight as the title suggests How to be Human.