Just a few minutes ago I finished reading The Fox Woman, our book club read for May (should have waited a little longer to read it, because I may possibly forget it all by the time the end of May rolls around!). Short version: this book is a retelling of a Japanese fairy tale about a fox that becomes a woman in order to sort of "trap" the man she loves into being with her (the "fox magic" creates a sort of illusory world that he lives in with her for 10 years, but to the outside world it is only 3 months and he is living in a fox den that is all dirty and so forth--the magic makes him think he is in a fancy house). It was unclear to me at the end, but I believe she was staying a woman at the end of the book. It was very engaging, though I didn't really bond with the characters specifically--a lot of the book was about identity and knowing oneself and as such, you didn't really get to "know" the characters (because they didn't really 'know" themselves and their relationships were based on illusion and lies or "masks" that people present to try to be perfect, not reality). The story shifts back and forth between three narrators (the fox, the man, and his human wife).
A couple of quotes I marked from it:
"...when I am so alone, I do not have to be any of these things. For this moment, I am wholly myself, unshaped by the needs of others, by their dreams or expectations or sensibilities. But I am also lonely. With no one to shape me, who stands here watching the moon, or the stars, or the clouds. I feel insubstantial, as if the wind might suddenly dissolve me, like a weak mist."
Of course one about birth :) (this is the fox woman while pregnant):
"...I knew in my blood and bones that pregnancy was not supposed to be a complicated thing. One got pregnant and continued to hunt and sleep and eat. One prepared several dens, and when the time came one crawled into one of them, and after a small amount of pain, one delivered one or two or three or four kits..."
After she becomes a woman and marries the man: "A woman's life is shadows and waiting."
After the man is found my his human wife and goes back to that world/life: "Life is better lived as an adventure than as a work of art, I think."
When the fox woman is talking to a goddess about "but what will happen?" in the future/to her, etc.: "'Live and find out. Life guarantees nothing, not even itself.'"
And the conclusion: "None of us...are human unless and until we claim it for ourselves....and our lives become the poems we were born to tell."