Domesticated journalist Tarte follows up his first report on life with critters, Enslaved by Ducks (2003).
The family house in Michigan is home to half-a-dozen indoor birds, mostly parrots, and indoor mammals including cats, rabbits and a skunk. Lodged behind the house is a flock of fowl: ducks, geese and a chicken. The backyard is an animal necropolis. Naturally, Bob and wife Linda, busily tending to their animal charges, just love them all. Reading like a sitcom with a menagerie, the book offers stories of a difficult garden hose, an underfed spider, the eviction of yellow jackets, an adopted apartment-bred duck, a nest of mice in a favorite chair and the tube feeding of an ailing parrot—along with some innocent laughs about Linda’s aching back. A friendly vet ministers to a dying bunny and fixes an egg-bound bird. Mentions of the death of the author’s father and the distressing Alzheimer’s of his increasingly demented mother are certainly troubling, but the text balances them with the comfort of Tarte’s Ark, filled with personable animals like Louie, Ollie, Stanley Sue, “a buff-colored Buff Orpington named Buffy” and a sock monkey. Tarte offers a few bits and pieces concerning humans, but they’re overwhelmed by garrulous pieces about the pets that disappear and appear, clucking, squalling and smelling from basement to attic. The author’s previous work yielded some amusements, but now it’s time to clean house a bit. Tarte’s current presentation of fun with fauna tests just how far personification of animals can go before a grip on normal life begins to loosen.
Best for staunch fanciers of fey animal tales.