To say I have a soft spot for animals would be a wild understatement. At the first sight of any furry friend, whether it be a dopey family dog or a crazed wild squirrel, my heart instantly melts into a puddle of obsession. And I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only human that has been won over by the power of a pawed creature’s love. Throughout both life and literature, animals have proven to be calming and utterly therapeutic companions. When life has put us through the ringer, animals show up time and again to point to the bright side and teach us the importance of compassion. Here are some of my favorite books that exemplify the healing strength of an animal’s love.
Ted and Lily are a classic example of the special bond that forms in a human-dog relationship. Ted is a struggling, lonely, middle-aged writer with an old dachshund named Lily. When Lily must battle a figurative “octopus,” readers are reminded just how fierce the power of love can be, and how difficult a decision it is to let go of that love.
Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.
Animals do a fantastic job of providing us comfort when we are at our lowest point. In FAITHFUL, Shelby is living in the wake of a tragedy—she is a survivor of a devasting car crash that left her best friend in a coma. Her survivor’s guilt has taken a rough toll on her, and Shelby spirals into a deep depression, propelling her to move to New York City on a whim in an attempt to start over. Through the comfort of rescued dogs, Chinese food, and a circle of lost souls—including an angel who has been watching over her—Shelby rises to prove that finding joy is not as impossible as it may seem.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.
After veterinarian Helena dies, her husband David is struggling with grief and caring for their household of damaged and beloved rescue animals, including Cindy the chimpanzee (Helena’s last project). When Cindy is scheduled for a research experiment that will undoubtedly take her life, David must call upon everything he has learned from Helena to save her. In the explosive courtroom drama that follows, David must confront mistakes, grief, and loss, and discover the only way to save Cindy is to understand what it really means to be human.
KEPT ANIMALS is a bold coming-of-age novel about desire, betrayal, and loss, centering on three teenage girls, a horse ranch, and the accident that changes everything. It’s 1993, and Rory works as a ranch hand at the stable her stepfather manages in Topanga Canyon, California. There she rides with the rich clientele, including twins June and Wade Fisk. Though Rory draws the interest of out-and-proud June, she is more intrigued by Vivian Price, the beautiful girl with the movie-star father who lives down the hill. When Rory’s stepfather is involved in a tragic car accident, the lives of the three girls become wildly bound together. Rory discovers photography, begins riding competitively more often, and grows closer to gorgeous, mercurial Vivian; but despite her newfound sense of self, disaster lurks all around. One night, as the relationships among these teenagers come to a head, a forest fire tears through the canyon, and Rory’s life is changed forever.
“Kept Animals is a darkly beautiful book, tender yet powerful, an exquisite exploration of hurt and desire, the why of wanting, taking, and giving. And Kate Milliken knows her stuff when it comes to horses.” —Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses
“In this rugged and ravishing debut, a tragic car accident upends the lives of multiple Southern California families—particularly three teenage girls, whose lives and desires intersect in ways none of them could have imagined.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
A bold, riveting debut novel of desire, betrayal, and loss, centering on three teenage girls, a horse ranch, and the accident that changes everything.
It’s 1993, and Rory Ramos works as a ranch hand at the stable her stepfather manages in Topanga Canyon, California, a dry, dusty place reliant on horses and hierarchies. There she rides for the rich clientele, including twins June and Wade Fisk. While Rory draws the interest of out-and-proud June, she’s more intrigued by Vivian Price, the beautiful girl with the movie-star father who lives down the hill. Rory keeps largely separate from the likes of the Prices—but, perched on her bedroom windowsill, Rory steals glimpses of Vivian swimming in her pool nearly every night.
After Rory’s stepfather is involved in a tragic car accident, the lives of Rory, June, and Vivian become inextricably bound together. Rory discovers photography, begins riding more competitively, and grows closer to gorgeous, mercurial Vivian, but despite her newfound sense of self, disaster lurks all around her: in the parched landscape, in her unruly desires, in her stepfather’s wrecked body and guilty conscience.One night, as the relationships among these teenagers come to a head, a forest fire tears through the canyon, and Rory’s life is changed forever.
Kept Animals is narrated by Rory’s daughter, Charlie, in 2015, more than twenty years after that fateful fire. Realizing that the key to her own existence lies in the secret of what really happened that unseasonably warm fall, Charlie is finally ready to ask questions about her mother’s past. But with Rory away on assignment, Charlie knows she must unravel the truth for herself.
One of my all-time favorite stories, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is told from the perspective of Enzo, a Lab-terrier mix plucked from a farm by a race car driver. But Enzo is not like other dogs—he is a philosopher with a human soul. As Enzo attentively watches and listens to his master, Denny, he comes to understand that life, like car racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo looks back at his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. This is a heart-wrenching, funny, and ultimately uplifting story told from the most beautiful and lovable point of view.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope—a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.
In this heartfelt and inspiring memoir, Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people. Jon was not planning to add any more animals to his at-home farm—and certainly not a sick donkey. But as soon as he met Simon, Jon felt a connection to this animal. The road to recovery was not easy for Simon, but through it all Jon learned about the importance of compassion and acceptance, and how these feelings can transform our lives. Jon’s newfound sense of empathy and shift in perspective even allowed him to welcome other animals in need. Through warmth and emotion, SAVING SIMON explains the seemingly unexplainable human experience of opening up to love and friendship.
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