Stronger and more adult fantasy than Elze's Milquetoast debut novel, The Changeling Garden (1995), but still something for the ladies of the garden club. Emma and Max, her cartoonist husband, summer on the shore of an Adirondack lake with a small island just offshore. As the story opens, Emma is becoming concerned about the peculiar behavior of her cat, Billie, through whose eyes many of the more imaginative parts of the novel are told. The summer before, Emma's father had died on the island, savaged by some unknown beast. He'd been building a time-machine, powered by solar energy, that has now begun functioning, intermittently opening small doors in time invisible at first to everyone but the cat. Billie has discovered that she can leap through a door near her front lawn and land on the island. Other doors on the island begin to allow huge six-foot beavers, great sabertooth cats, woolly mammoths, and huge wolves to enter our world. Emma is the first person to see them, and is ridiculed until a fellow animal-lover manages to tranquilize a sabertooth, one of the several creatures, it turns out, that are emerging from a two-million-acre virgin forest from the Pleistocene Age. A restaurant owner is killed by a wolf, which is later shot, and the townsfolk realize, when they begin to explore, that they are the dazed owners of a kind of gateway to a preStone Age Disney World. Emma, however, is less concerned with money than with preserving the animals. On a solo visit to the island, she walks through a doorway and finds herself among Stone Age early humans, marooned until the fickle time machine begins to function again. The climax is reminiscent of the recent film Jumanji, featuring troops of extinct beasts traipsing through civilization. Mild fare.
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