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The Last Animal by Abby Geni is that rare literary find a remarkable series of stories unified around one theme: people who use the interface between the human and the natural world to contend with their modern challenges of love, loss, and family life. These are vibrant, weighty stories that herald the arrival of a young writer of surprising feeling and depth.
Terror Birds” tracks the dissolution of a marriage set against an ostrich farm in the sweltering Arizona desert; Dharma at the Gate” features the tempest of young love as a teenaged girl must choose between man’s best friend, her damaged boyfriend, and a beckoning future; Captivity” follows an octopus handler at an aquarium still haunted by the disappearance of her brother years ago; The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr” details a Greek chorus of Jewish girls at a summer camp whose favorite counselor goes missing under suspicious circumstances; In the Spirit Room” centers on a scientist suffering the heartbreaking loss of a parent from Alzheimer’s while living in the natural history museum where they both worked; in Fire Blight” a father grieving over his wife’s recent miscarriage finds an outlet for comfort in their backyard garden and makes a surprising discovery on how to cherish living things; and in the title story, a retired woman traces the steps of the husband who left her thirty years ago, burning the letters he had sent along the way, while the luminous and exotic wildlife of the Pacific Ocean opens up to receive her.
Unflinching, exciting, ambitious and heartfelt, The Last Animal takes readers through a menagerie of settings and landscapes as it underscores the connection between all living things.
Abby Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of an Iowa Fellowship. Captivity” won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and was listed in 2010 Best American Short Stories; it was also selected for inclusion in New Stories from the Midwest, published by Ohio University Press. Her stories have also received Honorable Mentions in the Kate Baverman Short Story Prize and in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Competition. She lives in Chicago, where she is at work on a novel.