Papa Goose by Michael Quetting
PUBLISHED BY BLACK INC
REVIEW BY ANITA LAURIDSEN
Since we were quite young, my sister and I have always had a cutesy moniker for each other and ‘goose’ is the one that has stood the test of time. It’s one of those nicknames that really has no rational explanation at all – it just is.
So, when I heard about Papa Goose, my curiosity was definitely piqued. I love animals but animal stories aren’t my usual reading fare though I did enjoy both Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I find birds endlessly fascinating and believe them to be some of the most beautiful creatures on earth. Papa Goose confirms this belief and presents us with a heart-warming tale of what it was like for author Michael Quetting to rear a family of goslings with him as their parent, acting as both the adult goose and gander in their lives.
Although this premise sounds a little kooky, we quickly learn that Quetting is not just an eccentric animal lover, but an established ornithologist, ultralight pilot and the laboratory director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. He is given the unique opportunity to marry his love of birds and flying by raising a family of greylag geese and training them so that they will ultimately act as a kind of disciplined flight crew flying alongside his plane. The objective on these journeys is for the geese to carry specialised equipment that will allow scientists to be able to research flight patterns and gather meteorological data from an altitude not previously accessed.
For Quetting, however, this task is much more than cold, hard science; it is a completely immersive experience and he takes the role of surrogate goose father – the titular Papa Goose – very seriously.
There are some endearing moments as he raises his surrogate ‘children’: when he worries about the goslings successfully emerging from their shells, when he chats to them in his clumsy approximation of ‘goose talk’, when he snuggles them beneath his jumper, and the way he christens each one and grants them a unique personality.
From the moment the goslings hatch to the difficult farewells he makes as the surviving geese are freed to the wild, it is clear that these birds have had a profound effect on Quetting; he has imprinted on them and they have left an indelible mark on him too.
Papa Goose is a quirky and feel good read with a straightforward and engaging style though some nuances were perhaps lost in translation (the book was originally published in German).
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.