Orion Book Award Finalist
O, The Oprah Magazine “Title to Pick Up Now”
“An amazing feat of imagination.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Invisible Beasts is a strange and beautiful meditation on love and seeing, a hybrid of fantasy and field guide, novel and essay, treatise and fable. With one hand it offers a sad commentary on environmental degradation, while with the other it presents a bright, whimsical, and funny exploration of what it means to be human. It’s wonderfully written, crazily imagined, and absolutely original.” —ANTHONY DOERR, author of All the Light We Cannot See and The Shell Collector
Sophie is an amateur naturalist with a rare genetic gift: the ability to see a marvelous kingdom of invisible, sentient creatures that share a vital relationship with humankind. To record her observations, Sophie creates a personal bestiary and, as she relates the strange abilities of these endangered beings, her tales become extraordinary meditations on love, sex, evolution, extinction, truth, and self-knowledge.
In the tradition of E.O. Wilson’s Anthill, Invisible Beasts is inspiring, philosophical, and richly detailed fiction grounded by scientific fact and a profound insight into nature. The fantastic creations within its pages—an ancient animal that uses natural cold fusion for energy, a species of vampire bat that can hear when their human host is lying, a continent-sized sponge living under the ice of Antarctica—illuminate the role that all living creatures play in the environment and remind us of what we stand to lose if we fail to recognize our entwined destinies.
Sharona Muir is the author of The Book of Telling: Tracing the Secrets of My Father’s Lives. The recipient of a Hodder Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, her writing has appeared in Granta, Orion magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She is a Professor of Creative Writing and English at Bowling Green State University. Invisible Beasts is her first novel.
of a lie I had told. “Do I sound funny to you?” I demanded, looking up at Helen. She sat on her porch, spinning silk on her hi-tech spinning wheel, a compact disk the height of her knee. Helen and I are cousins many times removed, but we’ve always been close, as the two oddballs in a large clan of scientists: Helen went into the arts, while I, of course, am the invisible-beast spotter. For years, we’ve shared our peculiar ways of seeing things. Helen belongs to a worldwide fiber arts collective
petting surface between them. If I didn’t respond, he would thrust his head into my hand, to stimulate it, exploiting a human impulse straight out of some painted cavern in my brain. Whenever I took the time to massage his whole spine, skull to tail, I surfaced from that drenching in animal softness, in likeness and alienness, with the giddy rush that is our vascular reward for petting a dog; the lowered blood pressure that is the upshot of thirty thousand years of mutual evolution. My heart
while on a trip to Antarctica with my sister, who generously invited me to join a research expedition to collect ice core samples. In return for making myself generally useful, I got to observe snorting leopard seals, projectile-pooping penguins, and barnacled whale tails within inches of my nose; and to feel the strange thrill when a ship disappears into the frigid pink dusk, leaving your group to fend for itself. One day, hiking on a glacier, we climbed, one by one, into a deep crevasse—the
sweltering July morning onto a soggy dock, with a tote bag, full of Toto, over my shoulder. “Don’t tickle,” I muttered, as my invisible pet crept up my neck, and the young man unloading my overnight bag shot me a strange look. I smacked Toto and smiled. “I have this habit of talking to mosquitoes.” “Ma’am,” he replied, “they don’t listen.” We trekked 178 t Invisible Beasts uphill. The place was absolutely strange, a throwback to some musty Zanclean, or Clarkforkian, age of the world. We
noticed anything—“that old snoop with arterial plaque,” they called me. (Admittedly, I see the Keen-Ears more often than doctors.) The sheer physical harmony of the Keen-Ears’ lives seems to limit antagonism. When five of them sit on a twisted oak-root to peruse a map of fungus stands, they 44 t Invisible Beasts sink onto it as one, gracefully. Nobody has to scoot over or scrunch in. It’s not surprising that they dance like angels and make love with the ease of the elements. But for all