Unlikely Animals; Annie Hartnett
Ballantine Books - April 2022
Set in the small fictional town of Everton, New Hampshire, Unlikely Animals was a unique, almost whimsical kind of story, where even the dearly departed buried at the Maple Street Cemetery get to have their say about the residents still living in their town. It is a story of a family in crisis and it is also a story about how the opioid crisis has impacted small town life.
Emma Starling was believed to be born with the gift of healing. At 22 she drops out of medical school (at least that's her version of the story) to return home to help care for her dying father, Clive. Clive was forced into retirement as a result of a rare brain disorder that resulted in hallucinations. Clive sees animals that only he seems to see. He has even made friends with the ghost of a NH naturalist, Ernest Harold Baynes, a man known for his love and compassion to the gentle creatures who called the woods surrounding his property home. Clive is also all consumed with helping to find Emma's former best friend, Crystal Nash.
In this story the characters are flawed and animals play a significant part in this novel. The story is a bit slow moving but, trust me, it is slow and deliberate in the best kind of way. Emma was a well-crafted character and my heart went out to her at times. Her life wasn't turning out anything like she had thought. She'd gone from medical school to a caregiver and long term substitute teacher for fifth graders in town. Clive was also a character I grew to care about even when I didn't expect to as I learned about his past. There were some touching moments in this story and I loved the ending and learning about the author's inspiration for this story as well. Very enjoyable. If you are in the mood for something totally different, this just may be the book for you.
RATING - 4.5/5 stars
NOTE: Thanks go to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to an eGalley download.