BOOKS: The Raven Who Spoke With God

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2003:

The Raven Who Spoke With God by Christopher Foster
Singing Spirit Books (4127 Ash Ct., Loveland, CO 80538), 2001.
148 pages, paperback. $12.95.

Joshua, The Raven Who Spoke With God, is more-or-less kin
to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the title-bird of the 1973 best
seller by Richard Bach, reissued to renewed success in 1995. Those
who like spiritual bird stories seem to be as enthralled with Joshua
as they were with Jonathan, judging from the many rave reviews
published elsewhere.

Author Christopher Foster sold me on reading his book,
however, by describing it in a telephone call as being about raven
intelligence, inspired by mutual acquaintance Bernd Heinrich, who
authored Mind of the Raven and Ravens In Winter. But Joshua, though
identified as the equivalent of a teenaged bird, struck me as
seeming less like any real bird than like a rather rootless human
male having a midlife crisis.
Whether or not this describes Foster himself, I have not a clue.
The one really interesting idea I found in The Raven Who
Spoke With God is the notion that ravens might be trained to do
search-and-rescue work. That would not be a far stretch of raven
capabilities and habits. Ravens long since learned to be the avian
scouts for coyotes, wolves, and armies on the march, giving away
the locations of ambushes, for example, by congregating where they
expected there would soon be corpses. I have watched wild ravens as
they helped a coyote to locate a poached but unrecovered deer
carcass, and have followed ravens to find and remove baited leghold
traps. Though they did not mean to tell me that they had discovered
a meal, which they did not realize could be deadly to them because
of the traps, they shared the news of their finds with others, and
when I saw them gathering, I investigated.
Few creatures “volunteer” more information to the keen
observer than a raven, few are as sociable, and as Heinrich
discovered, few are quicker to learn.

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