Pax, Journey Home

pax journey home book

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Book Review

Thirteen-year-old Peter is struggling with his overwhelming feelings of loss and guilt because of the past war. Both of Peter’s parents are dead and he was forced to send away his pet fox, Pax. Meanwhile, Pax has begun a family with his mate. But when one of the young kits falls ill, Pax can only think of one solution. He must return to the human boy who once saved him.

Plot Summary

Pax is a fox. And though he may look like any other fox you might spot running through the wooded growth, he’s actually quite a bit different. Pax, you see, was once a friend of a human boy; a boy who saved him as a kit and raised him back to health. And by the time they were forced to part ways—for reasons Pax still doesn’t understand—Pax had learned that not all humans are dangerous. Some can be trusted. Some are good.

Now that Pax is a father, after finding a beloved mate named Bristle, he teaches his kits that valuable lesson, too. There are many dangers in the wild. And humans and their machines can be dangerous. But not all. Not all.

At the same time that Pax is teaching his new family and making a home at the Deserted Farm, his boy, 13-year-old Peter, is struggling mightily. The just-past war has taken so much from him. His parents are both dead. He was forced to send away his pet fox. And he was sent away too, to survive on his own since his grandfather—the only living family he has—is too bitter and distrustful to show Peter kindness. A local woman named Vola has opened her home and life to him, but it’s not the same.

Besides, Peter refuses to grow close to Vola, no matter her goodness. People and things he loves tend to die or leave. So, giving love is something Peter cannot do. He’s convinced that life is filled with too much pain to be shared. Peter’s overwhelming sense of loss and grief and guilt all make it plain what he must do.

Now that he’s stronger, Peter will join the Water Warriors for a time. This group, which analyzes and repair waterways that were poisoned during the war, will give Peter an opportunity to make his way back home. There he’ll move into the abandoned house his family used to live in. And he’ll be alone. That’s best.

Life can indeed seem filled with pain sometimes, whether you’re a boy or a fox. Pax sees that too, after his beloved little vixen kit gets sick and grows weaker and weaker. He has no way of knowing that the pond he took her to drink from was poisoned by chemicals that have killed everything that once lived in and around it. She soon begins stumbling and falling, no matter her effort.

But life can offer goodness and hope, too. When Pax catches a scent on the wind that he hasn’t smelled in a very long time, he realizes there might be a chance for his kit. It’s the smell of his boy! Surely the boy will know what to do. The boy helped him. The boy is good. But will the boy be good enough? Will he crack open his locked-down emotional protections?  Will he be able to help?

Healing comes in many forms. And two old friends desperately need the healing power of love right now.

Christian Beliefs

There’s no references to faith in God in this story, but thoughtful readers can find biblical parallels to the power of love, redemption and forgiveness in this tale.

Other Belief Systems

There are certain beliefs that the central characters are operating with here. The harsh things of war and life have left Peter with the belief that he must be strong and relationship-free if he hopes to survive. Caring about people and things only brings him pain. So, he avoids intimacy with other people and jams down memories of his family—and that includes Pax. In fact, when painful, guilt-filled thoughts of abandoning Pax bubble up, Peter creates a mental “penance” that he repeats until the feelings subside. He imagines the day he found the wounded kit, and instead of rescuing it, he takes his father’s advice and leaves the animal to die. Peter repeats this penance almost like a prayer.

On the other hand, Pax’s belief system is much more rudimentary. He knows what is dangerous, what is safe, what is bad, what is good. His beliefs are not self-deferential or self-absorbed, as a human’s might be. They just are. And that’s exactly how he communicates with his kits and those he loves. One of his strongest beliefs is an unswerving faith in Peter.

Authority Roles

Vola is a loving older woman who welcomes Peter in and with time offers to, in a sense, adopt him and give him half of what she has now—and everything when she passes. Hers is a tough love, but a sincere one that greets with open arms while not forcing anything on the struggling boy. In fact, Vola’s levelheaded and wise approach to those in her life also sways Peter’s grandfather. He’s a decidedly grumpy and recalcitrant individual who slowly comes around to understanding both Peter and Vola, and he even reaches out for a better connection with his grandson.

Samuel and Jade are a twenty-something pair of Water Warriors that Peter realizes are a couple. (They eventually marry.) He travels with them at first because he thinks their romantic feelings for each other will allow him to keep to himself. But Peter soon learns that they both are easy people to connect with. And Jade in particular has a special “secret weapon of kindness” that disarms him and draws him in. The three grow close. And during a particularly emotional moment when Peter remembers his parents, Samuel and Jade hug and comfort the emotionally shaken boy. In fact, it’s because of them that Peter begins to consider the possibility of facing and working through his past wounds.

In his own way Pax is a great illustration of what human parents should be. He thinks and communicates from his own animal perspective, but he’s willing to go to any and every extreme to protect and aid his kits—particularly his sick and near-death young vixen kit.

Profanity & Violence

No foul language or alcohol. There is, however, quite a bit of danger and peril here. Peter remembers the war that killed his father. He thinks back on his mother’s death as well. (None of those memories are visually violent, but they could still be disturbing for younger readers.) Peter also focuses on different versions of his “penance” which readers could find upsetting. And later, in an effort to protect himself emotionally, Peter picks up a rifle to kill a wounded animal (before turning from that path).

On the animal front, the foxes must be constantly wary of dangerous predators. Pax’s young daughter is snatched up by a large owl and almost taken away, but for his quick actions breaking the bird’s thigh and leg bone. Animals are threatened and burned by fires and explosions. Pax and a kit are swept over a waterfall and almost drown. And the poisonous waters, caused as an aftereffect of the war, are an ever-present danger as well. Animals are poisoned and Pax finds burrows and nests of other animals that have died from the poisons. In a very powerful sense this story is able to communicate the need for clean water and the incredible danger and deadliness of thoughtless man-made pollution.

Sexual Content

None, other than some loving fox licks.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for other books at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Why do you think Peter creates his imaginary “penance” when thinking about Pax? How did he think it would help him? Compare that to Pax’s thoughts about his new kits and growing family. What do you think the book is trying to say about family?

Why do you think Peter’s grandfather was so negative and harsh to people around him? Why do you think that began to change? For that matter, Peter went through some pretty important emotional changes. What do you think caused that change?

When Pax handed his suffering kit off to Peter, what do you think he was feeling? Both Pax and Peter express grief over lost loved ones. How are they alike and different? How do you think Pax’s choice to leave his daughter affected both Pax and Peter? Are there some biblical parallels that these kinds of choices bring to mind? What is the importance of the name (Sliver) that Peter gives to Pax’s kit?

What do you think this story is saying about starting over after something bad happens?

Additional Comments

Pax, Journey Home is a sequel to the award-winning first book Pax. But it stands alone without having to read that first book if you choose. It contains some powerful messages about family, adoption, forgiveness and friendship for thoughtful young readers. And the book holds a clear positive message about environmental conservation.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Reviewed by Bob Hoose

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