Fed-up employees of a Boston pet-shelter network plot the comeuppance of their egomaniacal boss in this comic novel.
Diane Salvi, 25, the new communications director of the Animal Protection Organization, is a conscientious animal lover who wants to make a real contribution. But her boss, Hal Mason, keeps thwarting her best ideas in favor of his own vanity projects. Her co-workers—Hal’s assistant, Betty, and Southern belle fundraising director, Mary-Day—are smart women, dedicated to animal welfare. They sympathize with Diane, but Hal is the board of directors’ golden boy, despite his crudity and malapropisms. (At one point, Diane describes him as “Brad Pitt on the outside, Borat on the inside.”) When Hal finally overreaches, Diane and friends begin a covert investigation, aided by Diane’s friend and roommate Genie, a reporter for a local paper—but Diane’s relationship with Mark, Hal’s son, complicates things. A novel that features abandoned pets and animals could be heavy-handed, but Brown ((A)Musings, 2013, etc.) has a light touch, acknowledging sadness but avoiding gratuitous sentimentality. The characters’ well-developed back stories allow readers to make sense of their personalities and choices. Diane’s wry, comic voice is smart and enjoyable, and her romantic travails realistically lead her to greater self-knowledge. Hal’s well-drawn narcissism is funny and exasperating, and the excerpt from the book he’s “writing” is a dead-on portrayal of egotistical self-delusion. Brown’s exploration of Hal’s character also goes beneath the surface to look at the politics of Boston’s academic and Brahmin worlds. The author’s real-life experience with professional fundraising makes such concerns in the novel ring true. In the end, Diane and her friends cook up an extremely satisfying and well-timed showdown that will leave readers satisfied.
A sweet, but not saccharine, comic novel.