UNSAID by Neil Abramson


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The premise in lawyer and animal-rights activist Abramson’s first novel—about a recently deceased veterinarian keeping her eye on the humans and animals she’s left behind—is that the “consciousness” of all living beings must be respected equally.

A victim of breast cancer, Helena must resolve her responsibility for the animals whose lives she ended before she can ascend into a peaceful afterlife. Meanwhile, she hovers near those she loves: her dogs, cats, horses and pet pig as well as her lawyer husband David, her mentor and vet-practice partner Joshua, and her college friend Jaycee, now a researcher into animal intelligence. Orphaned in childhood, David has always had abandonment issues, and he is too numbed with grief to take adequate care of Helena’s equally grieving animals on their beautiful farm outside New York. Fortunately, Joshua suggests David hire Sally, an out-of-work vet tech. Sally’s a widowed mother; her young son Clifford has Asperger’s syndrome and a heightened sensitivity to animals, particularly to Helena’s dog Skippy, who suffers from a debilitating heart condition. Sally has unfinished romantic history with Joshua, who left his professorship at Cornell to became a country vet while anguished over his small son’s death. Helena and Jaycee met at Cornell working as students in a primate immunology study where they shared a sense of guilt over the research-motivated death of a bonobo in their care. More recently, Helena has helped Jaycee work with a 4-year-old chimp named Cindy whose language skills are comparable to a human 4-year-old. After the government shuts down her study, Jaycee gets caught breaking into her lab to save Cindy and hires David to defend her. Her employer/researchers, who put human benefits of research above the risk to the animal subjects, seem heartless at best. The more morally evolved characters (most of them grieving a human loss) find solace mainly through their animal relationships.

Readers will either adore or despise this combination of animal-rights zealotry and love-conquers-all spirituality.


Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59995-410-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Center Street/Hachette
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2011