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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery When I closed this little book, all I could do was sit back in wonder. I heard the word "WOW" slip from my lips. This book makes you think.
Once you get over the unusual use of rarely used and very cerebral vocabulary words, which may confound you, you are drawn into a beautifully written tale about two main characters, separated by generations and background, whose lives parallel each other. Both are philosophers of sorts, both searching for the meaning of life in a world in which they feel like misfits, in which they have an alternate secret life in order to survive. It reads like a "comictragedy".
The main character, the concierge, vacillates between being part hedgehog and part fox and one wonders as one reads, what is she? On the other hand, is Renee the hedgehog and Paloma the fox?
The contrast between the 57 year old concierge Renee, and Paloma, the not quite teenager, is stark. Yet, they are so similar! They are both hiding from the world for different reasons which are really the same! They are afraid to show the world who they really are or what they really know for fear that discovery will be their very downfall. One lives near poverty level and the other in the lap of luxury. Both learn about the meaning of life, accidentally and quite innocently, through each other.
Each of the characters is poignant and well defined. I highly recommend this book.