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You’ll see how beautiful it is in the morning—jungle all around us,” says one of the characters in Anne Raeff’s story collection, referring to the way that the jungle that threatens can also provide solace. The jungle in these stories is both metaphorical and real, taking the reader from war-torn Europe to Bolivia and from suburban New Jersey to Vietnam. Raeff examines how war and violence, like the jungle, seep into our lives, even when we are no longer in danger and long after the war is over.
While struggling with fear, danger, and displacement, the characters of The Jungle around Us form strange and powerful bonds in distant and unlikely places. A family that has escaped Vienna ends up on the edge of the Amazon, where the parents fight yellow fever and the daughter falls in love with a village boy. Two sisters learn lessons about race and war during the Columbia University riots of1968. A young girl confronts death when her former babysitter is mysteriously murdered. In Paraguay, two adult sisters confront their loneliness while their precocious young charge faces off with a monkey. Raeff ’s stories are about embracing the world though the world contains everything we fear.