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The Last Animal by Abby Geni

Publication date: 24 Oct 2013


I've been entranced lately by octopuses. In my endless search for tattoo subjects, octopuses come up quite a lot because of their regenerative capability. Like a starfish, an octopus can regrow a limb if it is lost or damaged. The symbolism here isn't hard to ascertain - as humans, we are knocked down, cut, bled, ripped apart by life, and yet we continue. Emotionally, we can be the octopus.

So I was intrigued with this little book. I actually picked it up in a used book shop, thinking it was a novel, and hypnotized by the sultry cover. I'm suck a cover sucker! When I finally made my way around to it, I wished I'd read it sooner, because it's a collection of short, easy-to-read-in-one-sitting stories about the connection between the relationships between humans and animals helping them contend with sources of grief and loss in their lives.

"Terror Birds" is the story of a broken marriage from the perspective of the child. Animal subject: ostriches

"Dharma at the Gate" is the story of a teenage girl trapped in an emotionally enslaving relationship. Animal subject: a dog

"Captivity" was close to my heart, it’s a story of loss; a woman whose brother went missing years ago under suspicious circumstances. Animal subject: an octopus

"Silence" is the freeing story of a man dying of cancer. Animal subject: birds

"The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr" is a summer camp ghost story about a missing camp counselor from the perspective of one of the campers. Animal subject: this one didn't have an "animal" theme per se, unless you count the lake.

"Isaiah on Sunday" is a story about a young man who leaves his home because of differences between him and his parents. His sister runs away, to him. Animal subject:

“In the Spirit Room” is a story of a woman who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s and loses a bit of herself too. Animal subject: bugs, butterflies

"Fire Blight" is the story of a couple’s miscarriage from the perspective of the husband. Animal subject: plants. (Ok, not truly an animal, but this story was one of the most poignant and I can see why she included it.)

“The Last Animal” is a story of an elderly woman who follows the last letters of the husband who abandoned her, burning each letter as she reaches the place he wrote it from. Animal subject: whale

Ambiguous enough to relate to every reader, but distinctive and even poetic enough to have emotional depth, this book is a must-read for anyone who, like me, has experienced great loss. The healing process is unique for everyone, and this collection of stories revealing the healing of a broad assortment of people from a wide range of hurts was comforting to my soul, and I hope it will be for yours. This is one of those that you read and re-read and get something more out of it every time.


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