The autobiographical account of an arachnophobe who ends up passionately raising a brood of baby spiders.
Depending upon readers’ perspectives, Swagerle’s debut can be read as a Christian testimony of faith, a great nature story, an inspirational guide to overcoming irrational fears or a manual for raising tarantulas. The author begins by questioning the origins of her fear: “The decision to usurp the control that arachnophobia had on my life led me to delve into an area I had never questioned. Where was the foundation of this out-of-control fear?” Before long, however, the author had to confront her fears directly when, in 2003, she received a Chilean rose tarantula as a 53rd-birthday present. She named it Annie Rose. Ownership finally enables Swagerle to face down her arachnophobia, but the following months present a new hurtle when Annie Rose lays a clutch of eggs. At this point, the tone and style of the book begin to shift away from a meditation on fear to a manual on pet maintenance. As the author raises her clutter of tarantulas from post-embryonic stage to maturity, readers are guided through the journey in step-by-step detail. The author’s nearly evangelical enthusiasm is infectious, and her observations and diary notes will enhance readers’ knowledge about this arachnid species. The book, however, is rather unpolished, featuring awkward prose and remedial page layout. The color photos—many of which depict Annie Rose perched on the limb of one human acquaintance or another—lack definition and are overabundant in number. That said, this unusual title has great potential to become a niche market classic. Readers not looking for tips on tarantulas may relate to Swagerle’s tale of overcoming an extreme fear.
Despite technical shortcomings, essential reading for anyone considering a tarantula for a pet.