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Alfie and Me

What Owls Know, What Humans Believe

by Carl Safina

Alfie and Me by Carl Safina X
Alfie and Me by Carl Safina
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  • Published Oct 2023
    384 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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There are currently 26 member reviews
for Alfie and Me
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  • Sharon Zlotnick
    I loved this book.
    I love animals and so enjoyed reading about the author and his wife's relationship and salvation of Alfie. I would recommend this book to all animal lovers.
  • Laurie M. (Hampstead, NH)
    Alfie & Me - what a treasure!
    I had the pleasure of reading this heart-warming true tale of Alfie, a screech owl who as an owlet was rescued and rehabilitated for release back to nature. The author, Carl Safina, writes a very thought-provoking narrative. Woven throughout the story of Alfie, are Safina's philosophical musings. The reader walks away with a very enhanced knowledge of owls, the natural world, and views from other cultures. I'll be thinking about Alfie's story and Carl Safina's thoughts for days to come. This was a pleasure to read, and I would highly recommend it, especially for those who enjoy the natural history.
  • Diane J. (Grove City, PA)
    A Wide-Eyed View of Owls and Our World
    Any nature or raptor (owls, eagles, ospreys, etc.) lover will be immediately attracted to this book. But, if the owl doesn't draw you in, be sure to give it another look as it will satisfy interests of readers on many other levels. The key is to look closer at the two distinct themes the book's subtitle quietly references: "What Owls Know, What Humans Believe".

    The owl knowledge is beautifully described and interpreted by Safina's observations of a rescued owlet. Safina's extensive experience as a conservationist and ecologist qualifies him as a spokesperson. However, Alfie delightfully breaks a few owl behavior rules and teaches Safina a thing or two! I was surprised at how my assumption that Alfie would be at a disadvantage by being "imprinted" with human interaction was overruled by her natural instincts to hunt, mate, and take care of a brood.

    The "What Humans Believe" theme is interwoven with the story of the owl. After we learn of a happy or troublesome event in Alfie's journey, Safina provides a philosophic perspective from a comprehensive array of global sources. This includes Native American wisdom, Eastern philosophies (such as Buddhism and Taoism), and more traditional Western philosophers, such as Plato and René Descartes.

    Perhaps these philosophic reflections are a poetic way to create a storytelling time lapse to Alfie's life. Watching owls certainly requires stamina and these pauses give readers a sense of the hours and days Safina invested while patiently watching and caring for Alfie. Some interludes have a clear association with the natural world; others require careful consideration and contemplation. Regardless, the segments are short and allow us a quick to catch up and consider our own perspective. Drink it in, dear readers, and enjoy the refreshment of a wider perspective. You'll be amazed at what you learn.
  • Linda A. (Encino, CA)
    A Remarkable Tale Indeed
    Carl Safina's Alfie & Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe is a book I savored slowly as he recounts his rescue of an almost dead owlet from the forest floor near his home on Long Island, New York, and shares with readers the lessons he learned.

    Safina is a renowned naturalist, author of many articles and nearly a dozen books, and recipient of numerous awards. With his planned travel for work canceled during the worst of the pandemic, he and his wife Patricia are able to devote long hours to raising and eventually releasing the tiny Eastern Screech Owl they call Alfie.

    They become devoted "parents," providing safety and nutrition as Alfie matures. Much of the story centers on her careful release back into her natural environment as soon as she is grown and fully feathered. Months of human lockdown go by as Carl and Patricia watch their charge adjust to freedom. They hope she will survive and learn to do "owly things."

    Among those things are the ability to hunt on her own, find "romance," and transfer her allegiance from her human family to one of her own kind. Happily, she mates with an owl Carl and Patricia name Plus One and they raise three fluffy owlets called The Hoo. It's a joy to follow the owls' family life--including tense moments--which Safina documents with detailed observations, photos, and sometimes humorous commentary.

    Throughout the book, Safina, as writer and thinker, is concerned with the fraught relationship between humans and our planet. He toggles between the adventures of Alfie and his musings on the evolution of science, philosophy and world history. The result is an elegy to nature and our ideal relation to it, as illustrated by the author's interactions with an eight-inch owl, all of which occur within a "hundred-foot radius" of his house. The book also serves as a cautionary tale urging respect and preservation of the world around us.

    I'd like to point out that praise for Alfie & Me has come from author Jennifer Ackerman whose newest book, What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds (June 2023), is a bestseller. While Ackerman's broad approach describes her travels to research and report on the latest scientific discoveries relating to owls (a bird that notably includes two hundred and fifty species, living on every continent except Antarctica), Safina's book is an astonishing heartfelt close-to-home story about one specific instance of human to non-human connection. I highly recommend it.
  • Meg J. (Salem, OR)
    A wise and inciteful book!
    Clearly, Carl Safina is a master teacher, touching on so many crucial and relevant issues with the premise of a couple saving an owlet, and all that entailed. In the end, Safina teaches us about the tricky business of nurturing, of saving, and the pain of letting go. Added to the lessons was the cultural wisdom of the Indigenous communities, as well as a range of spiritual theologies, and the classical philosophers such as Descartes and Plato, whose words helped to shape our perception of caring for our universe and for our fellow animals. At times, Safina veers towards love of human animals, as well, such as the touching chapter about his uncle.

    Some readers may feel the book loses some focus during the philosophical transitions interludes as Alfie matures, but the book pierces to the core of what I came away with as it's urgent message: that nature must remain, and that the absence of it will be what, ultimately, does us in. Safina's just does this telling in a way that few environmentally-themed books attempt. I found myself going back again and again to the Algonquian story about the grandfather who took his grandson to the lake and gave him a stick to "stir up the water". After the child happily stirred up the water and mud and sand and leaves into a cloudy swirl, the boy was instructed "to put everything back as before". Such an incredible analogy, about the challenge of reversing what we've made of this earth, is what I will carry with me for quite a while.

    I am thankful for having had the chance to read "Alfie & Me". Simply put, it invites us all to do even one thing, to treat one another with kindness, to save this world.
  • Susan M. (Ashland, OR)
    The relationship between an owl and his human friends
    This beautifully written book chronicles the journey of the author with a rescued bedraggled owl, Alfie. If this is the only story told it would be special. Carl Safina describes how Alfie caused him to reflect on relationships. Relationship between humans and animals as one example. He weaves Plato's idea of dualism and how this idea impacts Western thought today. An owl and Plato hard to believe but this makes for an enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.
    This is the first book I've read of Safina. I look forward to reading his other books.
  • Leslie G. (Kathleen, GA)
    Engaging and entertaining
    If you love animals, nature, the great outdoors or are simply an armchair observer you will certainly enjoy this book about this spiritedly little owl and the relationship formed with her caregiver. As anyone who has rescued an animal in distress, it can be a difficult task. Helping a wild animal with the distinct goal of releasing it into its natural habitat is both rewarding and stressful. I really enjoyed the author's writing style and I felt as though I was at his elbow throughout Alfie's rehabilitation and eventual release. I've rehabbed a number of birds, from wrens to seabirds, so I could really relate. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

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