For as long as Beulah Andrews-Greyling can remember, pets have been valued members of her family. In Feathers & Furs, the South African author shares her memories of those animals, stretching back to her early childhood.
She begins with a chapter on Tiekie, a talking budgie she describes as “the most remarkable pet we ever had.” It’s a charming chapter with vivid descriptions of the little bird dive bombing the seed bowl, shouting out his name while navigating the busy house and pestering her father for a share of his breakfast. In the morning, she writes, he would ”sit in front of Dad’s porridge bowl and wait. If he thought the waiting was too long, he would climb onto Dad’s left arm and walk all the way to his shoulder, all the while talking to Dad in bird language or begging for some sugar: ‘Biekie suikerrrr’ with rolling r’s at the end.”
The tale ends in tragedy, however, setting the tone of loss that pet owners all too often experience.
The first chapter sets a high bar for this collection, and while none of the other pets are quite as remarkable as Tiekie, Andrews-Greyling does a skillful job of recreating scenes that are at times poignant, surprising and even laugh-out-loud-funny.
The book sometimes suffers from an overdose of sweetness, and the final chapters would have benefitted from a sharp trim. The habit of referring to her siblings by birth order — eldest, middle and youngest — feels awkward, as does her insistence on referring to the animals as “Feathers” and “Furs.”
But these flaws are not fatal, and while this collection may not speak to readers who are not animal people, those who share her bond with four-legged and feathered friends will likely find themselves warmed by a kindred spirit’s tales.