Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unsaid - Neil Abramson

There were many highlights from my experience at SIBA in Charleston this year, but one really stood out in my mind.  It was when I heard Neil Abramson speak on a panel about his new book "Unsaid".  What he had to say really got to me, and everyone else in the room.  Having loved and lost many pets, I knew this book would have the potential to bring me to my knees.  I generally avoid these types of books like the plague, but in this case, I knew I had to make an exception no matter what the result.  There was a certain kind of ethereal grace emanating from this book that I had to experience.


Synopsis:  In life, Helena was a woman who loved and cared for animals.  Her career as a veterinarian allowed her to give medical care to pets of all kinds, but also required that she help owners know when it was time to say goodbye and assist in that journey.  Helena has made mistakes though...one particular that haunts her, even now after she has passed away.  And these mistakes are keeping her earthbound.


Watching from a bird's eye view, Helena observes her husband struggle to keep his head above water, working as a high-powered attorney by day and caring for Helena's menagerie of animals by night.  She watches her mentor and vet partner struggle to keep the practice afloat.  She follows a lonely vet assistant and her young autistic son who has a special affinity with animals.  She regards her now absence from a project with a special chimp named Cindy, who is on the brink of breaking through the communication barrier between human and creature. 


When Cindy's life is threatened, it is up to her husband to save her, atone for Helena's guilt, and allow her soul to be at rest.


My opinion: There was a lot going on in this gentle book, but all of it embraced the non-verbal, the UNSAID, the spiritual connection between man and animal.  The wag of a tail, a whinny, a nudge, a whimper, eye-contact.  This is the way that animals try to communicate with us.  We just have to slow down long enough to hear them.  


It is with a quiet grace that Abramson addresses the issue, the importance, of knowing when to let go, both from the standpoint of grieving a friend/spouse/co-worker and from the standpoint of a sick pet.  This is perhaps the hardest, most painful thing in life, no?  I can't even think about it without going off the deep end.  But I never fell apart while under Abramson's spell.  He handled it all with kid gloves.  I only cried three times.


Many other issues were addressed too.  The care provided by a vet clinic, and handling it either with your heart or treating it as a business.  The challenges and blessings of raising an autistic child, and the connection such a child can have with animals (Temple Grandin is a perfect example).  Towards the end of the book, the wagons really circled around the issue of animal experimentation, and the rights of those animals, climaxing into a courtroom scene.  The overall focus of the novel, therefore, gets a bit diluted, but never loses its impact.  


If you are an animal-lover, this one is not to be missed.  The risk of tears is worth the reward of a story that will warm your heart.


4.5 out of 5 stars       




   

14 comments:

Jenny said...

This sounds like such a tough read but I'll have to take your word that it's worth it! Ive had few pets in my life, but I was devastated when my rabbit died. I'm terrified of when we get to that point with my dog. :(

rhapsodyinbooks said...

la-la-la, not reading! as you would say!

Julie P. said...

Oh wow! I don't know if I could handle this book and I don't even have any pets.

Anna said...

Only three times?? This does sound like a beautiful book, but not sure I could handle it.

Jackie Bailey said...

As you know I try to read almost anything I can get my hands on that mentions autism. I'm a bit worried by you saying it is a gentle book, but I do like my emotions to be engaged. I've added it to my wishlist.

bermudaonion said...

I've got to get to this soon, but I think I'll buy a fresh box of tissues first.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I think this might be a bit too sad for me right now but I am going to put it on my wish list for later on.

Zibilee said...

You sold me on this one a few weeks ago, and now I am anxious to read it. You are not kidding when you said there was not a dry eye in the room when Abramson was done speaking. He had the verbal ability to reduce us all to tears, and I can only imagine the power and potency of this book. Amazing review today. Both graceful and elegant, and very touching to read.

Ti said...

Sounds wonderful.

My daughter announced that she wants to be a Vet. This is the girl who cries when a baby bird falls out of the nest or when there is road kill in the street yet someone could be walking around with a torn off limb and she'd jump into action.

Jenners said...

It sounds like a lovely and sensitve book. I'll have to keep it in mind … espeically now that I have my little pup.

Alyce said...

Hmmm...animals, an after-life spirit watching from above, and a climax in a courtroom scene. It's like someone set out to use elements I flee from. :) I'm glad that you enjoyed it though.

Swapna said...

Great review. You know I loved this one as well.

Kathleen said...

As an animal lover I know this will bring some tears but it sounds like the reading experience will be rewarding.

Portugal said...

A unique, compelling and fast moving story-- I thoroughly enjoyed it and read the book in two intense sittings!!! That being said I happen to be a complete realist and very cynical person as well. Consequently I realize that many like minded folks may be more than hesitant to read this book given its unorthodox and unique premise.