Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

My sister is a vet. My brother-in-law is a vet. We have more than the usual number of vet friends. We are surrounded by vets and by the animals who need them. There's something of a mystique about their jobs despite the fact that my sister says 90% of being a vet is about "ears and rears." Two good reasons I could never have been a vet myself. Well, that and the whole biology class thing. But if I can't be a vet in real life, I still have a real affinity for vet stories and an even greater affinity for stories that include animals. Kittle's latest novel after Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers, deftly handles both while closely entwined with issues of love and marriage and the definition of a successful relationship.

Cami Anderson is a successful vet who volunteers for animal rescues. She and her husband have hit a rough patch in their marriage but Cami is shocked when she comes home from a particularly emotionally grueling rescue to find that Bobby is leaving her. That her admittedly stagnant marriage is over completely blindsides her and is especially painful as the true reality of their estrangement comes to light. While she grieves the loss of her own marriage, she watches her parents celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, watches her soon-to-be-ex-sister-in-law plan the extravagant wedding she thought would never come, and watches her brother and his partner fight to adopt a baby into a relationship that can't be legally recognized. Into the mix, her almost grown daughter is having her own relationship troubles, spurred on by the collapse of her parents' marriage. And Cami herself is skittish about starting a new relationship either with her best friend or with a like-minded stranger.

Equally weighted with the human drama in the novel are the cases that Cami sees in her clinic and on rescues. She knows that she can always rely on animals to ground her and to offer her unconditional love and trust, even when they have been so abused that they are broken almost beyond repair. In healing the desperate animals, she will perhaps learn to heal herself and open her heart to chance, even knowing that not every man will be worthy of that chance. Cami finds her peace with her animals, learns to let go (both in actuality and emotionally), takes a chance, and appreciates the beauty of being happy in the present.

A quick and engaging read, this novel not only focuses on marriage and the questions that a commitment of that magnitude can raise but also on happiness and finding fulfillment in life, chasing the things that are important and recognizing that just because something is familiar, it isn't necessarily the right or best thing. The characters, both large and small, are engaging and diverse, all adding important puzzle pieces to the whole of the book. And Cami, as the main character, shows significant, satisfying growth. The storyline was appealing, unpredictable but fitting. The pacing was quite good, never rushed and never drawn out. The themes are serious and yet leavened with humor. Animal lovers will relate to the story and Cami. Book clubs will love this offering, giving just enough to discuss but also enough for members to relate to in their own lives as well. I finished it with a smile and a warm spot in my heart for Cami and her animals. Sensitive readers will want to know that there are horrific descriptions of animal abuse contained within but these are never gratuitous and serve to highlight not only the terrible things people do to our fellow creature but also to show how even the most ill-used can be rehabilitated and learn to trust and love again.

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a review copy of this book.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked The Kindness of Strangers and I wanted to read more by this author. This looks like a good followup--can't wait to pick it up. Thanks for this review!


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