As he did in UNSAID, Neil Abramson explores the interconnectedness of humans and the animals we share our homes and lives with, in a timely novel that will resonate long after you've turned the last page.
An unidentified virus is spreading through the New York City neighborhood of Riverside, near Central Park. Despite the desperate need for answers, the medical community can only determine the cause is zoonotic, suggesting birds one day and dogs the next as the possible source. Despite the lack of information, the politically ambitious governor orders the National Guard to enforce a quarantine of all dogs. At the heart of this conflict, veterinarian Samantha Lewis is struggling to keep her no-kill shelter open. She finds support in a motley crew of friends that range from a local priest, to a troubled nineteen-year-old emancipated foster child, to a former psychologist whose life was destroyed by addiction. But the one person that Sam needs is the last one she'd ever want to call on--and contacting him will mean confronting every painful memory of her past.
My Review of Just Life
Just Life by Neil Abramson is not just a story about humans and their relationships with their four legged friends but also their relationships with each other.
Dr. Sam Lewis works tirelessly with a small motley crew at Finally Home Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter in N.Y. where animals are given love, care and a safe haven from the streets. Alongside Sam her crew of workers and volunteers try to find forever homes for these animals where puppy mills and pet shops often take first place when choosing pets. But Sam’s days are filled with more concerns than finding homes and giving care. A mysterious virus has hit the community of Riverside and children have become seriously ill. The CDC and local governments are convinced it’s zoonotic and they are looking for answers in the local animal population. Added to Sam’s ever growing concern for the children and her dogs is the threat to vacate. Sam has been given 30 days to relocate and find homes for all her animals. She is sitting on prime real estate and the city is anxious to develop. With the city and a political candidate for governor looking for answers for the mysterious virus a quarantine has been put in place for the community of Riverside. With growing unrest within the community Sam has been asked to locate her father, a renowned veterinarian and expert in zoonotic research. Sam at first refuses as she and her father have not spoken in years. But as fingers begin to point at dogs as the possible virus carriers Sam readily agrees to locate him to save the children and give more time to her dogs. The clock is ticking and pressure mounts on all sides. Everyone must work together to save the ailing children and the large population of dogs in Riverside.
This book will bring all kinds of emotions to the reader. I found myself frustrated for the parents of the sick children and the panic they must have felt. I also sympathized with Sam and her fear that the city in its attempt to find answers quickly would destroy the local dog population. I also felt sympathy for the pets. The author’s description of stray and abandoned dogs broke my heart. I could picture them all in shelters wanting a forever home. It certainly brought home the importance of paying a visit to your local shelter first before paying for a high priced puppy mill dog. Another fascinating feature of the book was the characters Neil Abramson created. All the characters were strong and beautifully written. Sam was driven and denied herself human affection finding trust only in her animal relationships. Greg and Luke were great coworkers and friends both loyal to Sam and the care of the dogs. Beth was funny and cynical, but when the chips were down could be counted on to help in any way. Daniel Lewis I am thankful was contrite and finally on the right side of justice. Andy, a friend and tortured teen broke my heart. His loyalty to the dogs was heartbreaking. Kendall was a tough N.Y. cop, but with a heart of gold. However, my favorite character overall was Father Gabriel. Tough and determined with a loving and compassionate heart for everyone and everything, Father Gabriel stood out for me. This character haunted me even after I turned the last page.
For those who are worried about raw descriptions of animal abuse in this story please don’t. The writer tells this story with prudence and discretion. There is some language, but otherwise no uncomfortable scenes to worry about.
Just Life by Neil Abramson is a moving account of what people and animals can do when they work together even in the worst of circumstances. It’s about loyalty and love among the most unlikely of human characters and the bond between animals and their humans.
I want to thank FaithWorks/Center Street for an advanced copy of Just Life by Neil Abramson via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
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