Unsaid – A Book Review
I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to my book reading list. I didn’t read Gone Girl when everyone else did (I watched the movie instead). I missed the whole Divergent series when it originally came out. And, all the dog books everyone else has been raving about for months have been sitting on my night stand for months.
However, I did get around to reading one book that was making the rounds last year (at least I think it was last year). The book is “Unsaid,” written by Neil Abramson, and it has been occupying my mind for a while now.
Bare bones, the book is about a dead woman, Helena, and her relationship with those she loves. It’s also a story about coping with life after you lose the love of your life, friendship, and fighting for those who don’t have a voice in our legal system. Woven through the story (and various storylines), there are dogs, cats, horses, a pig, a chimp named Cindy, and a boy named Clifford.
At the beginning of the book we learn that Helena, a veterinarian, has died from cancer. She lingers on in the lives of her husband and beloved animals, unable to move on and unable to help them in their grief. She feels for her animals, for whom she was the prime caregiver, and her husband who is trying to care for them while still dealing with his debilitating grief at losing her.
Reading her words and her feelings in this early part of the book was difficult. I imagined myself in her position and having to watch my own animals struggling to deal losing me. It was painful. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would cope with the loss and with being split up. How scary would it be for them to suddenly be living in a new home or in a rescue? How confused would they be? Would they thrive? Would they struggle? Yeah. Not pleasant thoughts to be thinking.
But soon, the book has you heading in different directions and off on a journey that explores the relationship between her husband, a veterinarian friend, a woman and her son and the pets she leaves behind. Each person is someone you come to care about. Each is struggling with loss and trust and change. Even Helena’s animals become personalities that you root for or worry about.
When Helena’s husband (a lawyer), takes on a case involving a chimpanzee, named Cindy, and the woman who has raised and studied her, the story takes turn. At the center of the court battle is the argument that Cindy, a chimp who communicates using sign language and has been shown to have the capacity to think like a child, should be saved from experimental testing because she is a sentient being. The battle takes many twists and turns but in the end leaves one thinking about the value of an animal life and the value each animal brings to our own lives.
As Helena says near the end of the book:
“I’ve been so foolish, running through the forest searching for some profound and eclipsing life meaning when it is the trees themselves that were bejeweled the whole time: Skippy, Brutus, Arthur, Alice, Chip, Bernie, Smokey, Prince, Collette, Charlie, Cindy, hundreds of cats, dogs and other creatures whom I treated, made better, eased into death, or simply had the privilege to know. Each was worthy in his or her own right for being valued, each was instrumental in connecting us and then moving us onward in our own lives, and each gave more than he or she got in return.”
This is a book worth reading. It leaves you thinking and it makes you appreciate the time you have with the animals in your life. I think I only had two disappointments in reading this book: 1) that I never got to experience Helena being reunited with any of her animals, and 2) that it ended way before I was ready for it to do so.