Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe (Hardcover)
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A Scientific American Best Staff Read of 2023
A moving account of raising, then freeing, an orphaned screech owl, whose lasting friendship with the author illuminates humanity’s relationship with the world.
When ecologist Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia, took in a near-death baby owl, they expected that, like other wild orphans they’d rescued, she’d be a temporary presence. But Alfie’s feathers were not growing correctly, requiring prolonged care. As Alfie grew and gained strength, she became a part of the family, joining a menagerie of dogs and chickens and making a home for herself in the backyard. Carl and Patricia began to realize that the healing was mutual; Alfie had been braided into their world, and was now pulling them into hers.
Alfie & Me is the story of the remarkable impact this little owl would have on their lives. The continuing bond of trust following her freedom—and her raising of her own wild brood—coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a year in which Carl and Patricia were forced to spend time at home without the normal obligations of work and travel. Witnessing all the fine details of their feathered friend’s life offered Carl and Patricia a view of existence from Alfie’s perspective.
One can travel the world and go nowhere; one can be stuck keeping the faith at home and discover a new world. Safina’s relationship with an owl made him want to better understand how people have viewed humanity’s relationship with nature across cultures and throughout history. Interwoven with Safina’s keen observations, insight, and reflections, Alfie & Me is a work of profound beauties and magical timing harbored within one upended year.
— Barbara J. King - Science
Like Blake, Safina sees the world in a grain of sand, holds infinity in the palm of his hand. In addition to Blake’s poetic insight, Safina brings a great deal of scientific knowledge to his work.... Safina’s interrogation of each interaction results in provocative, insightful asides, a pulling-together of the many tributaries of attention to a particular animal, employing his career in the life sciences and the vast reading of world literatures and philosophies.
— Michael Sims - Washington Post
Alfie’s story is wonderfully told, drawing back night’s curtain on these feisty and intelligent birds.
— Julie Zickefoose - Wall Street Journal
In his new book, Alfie and Me, Carl Safina, one of the United States’ best science and nature authors, adopts an injured owl and writes: ‘Our deeply shared history as living things is why we had the mutual capacity to recognize each other, and be brought into relationship by that strange binding called trust.’ The healing, Safina discovered, goes both ways.
— Kim Heacox - The Guardian
A must-read. This wonderful story offers a life-changing and moving account.... [A] landmark and deeply personal book.
— Marc Bekoff - Psychology Today
The book is brilliant. It made me laugh, weep, marvel ... at Alfie, at humanity, at you, Carl, and your remarkable insights and sensibility. Bravo! May Alfie and her book soar!
— Jennifer Ackerman, New York Times best-selling author of What an Owl Knows
This is a book about a foundling owl, and infinitely more. As it turns out, the universe and all its mysteries, our relationship with our wild kin and a better future for ourselves and the planet—all are reflected through the prism of an eight-inch ball of feathers named Alfie. Carl Safina has never been more eloquent, or more urgent. Alfie & Me is masterful.
— Scott Weidensaul, author of A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds
Carl Safina has written a book of great wisdom and beauty, full of drama and insight. How right to choose an owl, symbol of learning, to help us see anew the twinned truths of compassion and connection—gifts our kind desperately needs to keep our world alive.
— Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
The rescue of a little screech owl brings Carl Safina the unexpected joy of companionship and propagation of the species, leading him to philosophize about humanity and how much we’re part of nature. A delightful read!
— Frans de Waal, author of Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist
Little Alfie unleashed a meditation about life itself and how our culture has shaped our way of seeing the world and our place in it. A unique book that is scientific and spiritual at the same time.
— Isabella Rossellini
An award-winning ecologist examines his transformative connection to a bird.... As Safina lyrically recounts his observations of and interactions with Alfie, he reflects on spirituality, reverence, and the contrast between Indigenous, traditional Asian, and Western ways of being and knowing.... A fervent homage to a dynamic, interdependent universe.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Moving.... Philosophical musings on humanity’s beliefs about nature add intellectual rigor to the heartwarming story.... Stirring and ruminative.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
A wonderfully intimate account.... Interwoven with Safina's broad experience with other cultures’ views on animals and the world and of how they related to Alfie’s life, and richly illustrated with photographs, this a beautifully illuminating work of up-close natural history.
— Booklist, starred review