Review by E. Kirshe
At the risk of sounding cliche, How to Catch a Mole is a quiet gem of a book. The slim illustrated novel is perfect for anyone who loves nature or is seeking an almost meditative reading experience.
Though it at times reminded me of other nature works, it very much stood on its own. Part memoir, poetry collection, and nature diary, the amalgamation makes it unlike other books in the genre.
Hamer weaves together his personal history with his thoughts on his current profession: mole catching. No, this is not a how-to book. Rather, Hamer delves into his everyday observations about working in tune with and being one with nature. Mole catching, according to Hamer, requires one to be a bit wild. Moles may not be big game but he is a hunter and needs to know how their world works.
Mole reads as very honest. Hamer’s quiet and stark observations about ordinary life and nature are beautifully communicated. Even when Hamer is making profound statements about how he views his role on the planet, it feels like reading a diary. Like he’s writing his thoughts for himself instead of cleaning them up for an audience.
There are times when I felt there was a bit too much romanticism in his work. His profession is mole extermination, after all. This also comes up when he looks back on his time being homeless. He’ll talk about freedom and the running theme of living life in nature. But anytime I started to feel this, he’ll turn on a hefty dose of reality to balance it out.
“Even lying under a pier once, starving and feeling that I was dying, I felt sad, but I also reasoned that it was perfectly acceptable to feel sad in that situation…I have in my time deliberately tried to die, but I am still here…I began allowing life to happen.”
Mole manages to toe the line between extremely poetic and pointedly matter-of-fact. His poetry regards the everyday turns of the earth, life, death, and the way a certain slant of light makes him feel. His observations on the habits and lives of moles, as well as other creatures, switch between affinity and scientific study.
He knows their mating and eating habits in detail. He knows the tunnel systems of a mole because he needs to know how to find them. But then he’ll turn around and describe their lives as deeply entwined with his own.
This contemplative book is, as the subtitle says, wisdom from a life lived in nature. It’s a lovely account of the life one man managed to build along with his deep understanding of the natural world. At the end of the day, Hamer will make you think about the interconnectedness of every living thing on this planet- in the most intimate and clarifying way.
How To Catch A Mole was published in 2019 by Greystone Books
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The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.