Unlikely Animals: A Novel

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When she left home and became a legend of small town Everton, Emma Starling was a local healer off to tackle the world. Blessed with a healing touch as a young girl, everyone knew she would become a doctor and save countless lives. But, when she drops out of medical school to return to New Hampshire to care for her father, Emma encounters her greatest failings and worst fears in Annie Hartnett’s Unlikely Animals.

No one knows exactly what is wrong with Clive Starling apart from the hallucinations he keeps having of Ernest Harold Baynes, a dead naturalist, and the animals that surrounded Baynes. The novel is told through a surprising narrative voice: the collective conscience of dead people buried in the local cemetery. At first this conceit through me off, but it proved to be a brilliant way to be everywhere and nowhere at once, peaking into Emma’s life as she navigates being an elementary school teacher for the first time and her father’s deteriorating health.

Emma’s relationship with her mother is strained, her brother’s frequent trips to rehab haven’t been easy on the family, and Clive’s affairs that led to her parents’ divorce means that no Starling is stable. At every turn, when it seems the world has become too difficult, the search too fruitless, and the fears too great, the characters keep going. For those who have ever lived in a small town or felt like they were hanging on by a thread in absurd times, Unlikely Animals is a must read.

Reviewed By:

Author Annie Hartnett
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 384 pages
Publisher Random House Publishing Group
Publish Date 28-Feb-2023
ISBN 9780593160244
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Issue May 2023
Category Modern Literature