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Bohjalian's new novel begins with a literal bang: a bullet from a hunting rifle accidentally strikes Spencer McCullough, an extreme advocate for animal rights, leaving him seriously wounded. The weapon—owned by his brother-in-law, John, and shot by his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte—becomes the center of a lawsuit and media circus led by Spencer's employer, FERAL (Federation for Animal Liberation), a dead ringer for PETA. The many-faceted satire Bohjalian (Midwives, etc.) crafts out of these events revolves around Spencer and Jon's families, but also involves a host of secondary figures. Bohjalian excels at getting inside each character's head with shifts of diction and perspective, though he makes it difficult for readers to connect with any one in particular. This is in part because his portraits are often unsympathetic; the characters are allowed to hoist themselves on their own petards. While some are credibly flawed—Spencer is both a loving father and an obnoxious activist—others are cartoonishly mocked with their own thoughts, like high-powered attorney Paige, who mourns the loss of her leather chairs and briefcases, hidden away for as long as FERAL is a lucrative client. If there is a grounded center to this work, it is 10-year-old Willow, Spencer's niece, who distinguishes herself from this baggy ensemble by always trying to do the right thing. She alone is spared the narrator's irony, and it is Willow, years after the accident, who has the last word. Bohjalian's skewering of the animal rights movement gets the better of his domestic drama, but his skillful storytelling will engage readers.
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*Starred Review* Bohjalian's novel is a focused look at how a family copes with a tragic accident and how their own deeply held beliefs and desires affect their relationships with each other. Every summer, Nan Seton has her daughter and son and their respective families up to her New Hampshire summer home. Her daughter, Catherine, is married to Spencer, an animal rights activist, and the two have a precocious 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte. Her son, John, has two children, quiet 10-year-old Willow and baby Patrick, with his wife, Sara. John also has a secret; he's taken up hunting. When Charlotte, under the influence of stolen beer and pot from a teenage party, finds John's gun, she fires it at what she thinks is a deer in the distance but is actually her father. Though Spencer lives, the damage caused by the gun leaves him crippled, and the company he works for, FERAL, wants to use his injury to rail against guns and hunters, which creates significant rifts in the extended family. Bohjalian's elegant, refined writing makes even the most ordinary details of family life fascinating, and his characters leap off the pages as very real, flawed, but completely sympathetic human beings. Bohjalian manages to examine some very weighty issues without ever coming off as preachy or pedantic. A triumph. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.