Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for April 5th, 2015


Posted by nliakos on April 5, 2015

by Neil Abramson (Center Street 2011, ISBN 978-1-59995-410-3)

The subject headings for this book are Wives–Death–Fiction, Chimpanzees–Fiction, Human-animal communication–Fiction, Human-animal relationships–Fiction, and Bereavement–Fiction. That pretty much covers it.

Helena, a veterinarian, was married to David, a lawyer (so far similar to the lawyer/author and his veterinarian/wife). Helena is dead (Wives–Death–Fiction), yet she narrates the entire story. Unable to “go on” (as Albus Dumbledore would have put it), she hangs around observing her husband, her friends, her animals, and some other people as they encounter various struggles. Occasionally, someone seems to have some inkling that she is there in her ghostly non-form, but in general even the animals are unable to perceive her presence.

David is not dealing with his grief very well (Bereavement–Fiction), nor is he very good at dealing with the menagerie of damaged animals Helena has left him (Human-animal relationships–Fiction); the draft horse Arthur and the pig Collette are particularly challenging. Eventually, he does get some help in the form of unemployed vet tech Sally and her ASD son Clifford (Human-human relationships–Fiction?). But the crux of the story revolves around the drama of Helena’s friend Jaycee and Cindy, a chimpanzee (Chimpanzees–Fiction) whose language development Jaycee has been developing and studying, with help from Helena (unbeknownst to David). Now Jaycee’s research funding has run out, and she will┬álose Cindy (who, if returned to the general research primate population, risks being used for a study that would main, torture, or kill her). desperate, she tried to take Cindy from the laboratory (a federal crime, as Cindy is federal property). Arrested, she will go to prison (in addition to Cindy’s being vivisected or worse) unless David can be persuaded to┬átake her case. There is a trial. Helena watches from the other side, still guilt-ridden by what she and Jaycee did as young scientists that resulted in the death of Charlie, a young bonobo (Chimpanzees–Fiction).

I may sound flippant, and the plot overdone, but I actually loved the book. I tore through it like a brushfire, weeping much of the time.


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