Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: April 12, 2022
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
A daughter who’s a natural healer, a father who’s experiencing hallucinations from whatever inside his brain is killing him, a missing woman, and a small New Hampshire town with a cemetery filled with a vocal community of dead people are the core for Annie Harnett’s new novel, Unlikely Animals. Despite the seriousness of the subjects this is a funny funny novel. Really.
From birth Emma’s touch has been said to heal people of various ailments. This fed into her parents’ belief that she should become a doctor so she tried. Now she’s heading home from college, ostensibly because her father is sick, but really because things have not gone as planned. And she hasn’t been honest with anyone. Her mother is trying to deal with her father and his increasingly problematic behavior and her brother who’s come out of another stint in rehab, but seems unable to restart his life. Emma arrives home only to find that her best friend from high school has disappeared and no one, including the police seems interested in finding her. Only Emma’s father thinks her disappearance is not drug related, but no one is taking him seriously anymore as he sees animals where there are none. And some of them talk.
There is a lot going on in Unlikely Animals which is often a sticking point in my enjoyment of a novel. Thankfully, Hartnett writes with such off-the-cuff, fresh humor that the snowballing events feel inevitable, not forced. Until, that is, the last 20% of the novel. At that point, it feels as if she’s lost control and/or been told to wrap things up neatly no matter how far-fetched. This led to silly resolutions for some of the novel’s biggest storylines and left me frustrated and a bit sad. I felt the characters deserved a more dignified end—or more ambiguity for the complex situations. As breezy summer reading Unlikely Animals is clever and enjoyable, just be ready for a manic wrap-up.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.*
I went to the library and was able to get this book today. I hope I like it as much as you and Suzy do. This book is getting a fair amount of buzz. Thanks for taking the time to do the review I know you have a lot going on.
I liked it, but Susie and Sarah loved it. I found the plot went too far towards the end, but the humor throughout is fabulous.
Lisa of Lisa Yarns says
Can you remind me if you liked ‘Rabbit Cake’? Sarah has raved about this so I am tempted to read it but I did not care for Rabbit Cake. I can’t recall why as I read it so long ago… if you liked Rabbit Cake but didn’t love this, I am thinking I should skip.
I have you to thank for a couple of recent 5 star reads – Notes on an Execution and Love & Saffron. I wish L&S was twice as long, though! I did not want it to end! I love hearing you on Sarah’s podcast. I don’t know if anyone has told you, but you have an excellent voice for podcasting/radio!
Thank you so much for the kind words! I have to smile at people complimenting my voice because I feel certain it must sound as shrill as the one in my head.
I didn’t love Rabbit Cake, but chalked it up to It’s Not You, It’s Me. Now having read Unlikely Animals I can say that Hartnett likes to push events to a point that feels silly to me. She does it again in this novel, but her humor is so outstanding I still enjoyed the book. I just rolled my eyes toward the end.
L&S needs to become a movie. So many incredible possibilities. Meryl Streep as Immy, Emma Stone as Joan?
Manic wrap-ups can be annoying, though I’m curious about the early humor of this one …. and why people are loving the book. So I’ll have to check it out. It does sound like there’s quite a bit going on in it.
I kind of chalk this up to “it’s not you, it’s me”. I felt the same way about Rabbit Cake. Events end up feeling ridiculous to me, but I know so many who adore this book. And the humor is fabulous!