what a pleasant surprise of a book!?! i really enjoyed the story, the character, the writing - everything was wonderful, and despite its bulk, it read fairly quickly and easily. spunky and full of emotional nuggets of wisdom, this was a book that left me immensely satisfied, both as a reader and as a human being that loves her people and animals.
"Throughout my teens I'd flirt with starvation - as well as with rock climbing, flying lessons, hitchhiking and lots of solo travel, a variety of drugs, and boys with bad reputations."
the story centers on Camden (Cam or Cami for short), a sometimes reckless, but mostly passionate veterinarian who very much loves her work, who is also a mother and wife in a seemingly turbulent, but satisfying life. and then, without much warning or fanfare, her husband leaves, throwing their lives into the painful aftermath of divorce. but, Cam, being the ever-resilient superwoman type that she is, does her best to dust herself off and weather the storm and learn a bit about herself and others along the way.
through a whole slew of characters that i couldn't even begin to introduce, Cam wades through the divorce with her support system in tow. parents, in-laws, fellow co-workers, her gay brother and his partner (both named David), her best friend and fiancee, her daughter and her very smitten boyfriend, and on and on. and that's not even beginning to get into the animals. so, be prepared for the long list of characters! but, as much as it sounds daunting, it really wasn't. each person and every animal had their place and it wasn't overdone or excessive somehow.
so, as the title would suggest, animals definitely have a portion of the spotlight in the story. Moonshot, in particular, a tragic and temperamental rescue horse comes into Cam's life on the same day that her husband leaves, giving Cam an outlet for her frustration, allowing her to nurture and care for something other than her own damaged self, if only for a while. but, in addition to Moonshot is the crazy goat that won't stay put and the three-legged cat that purrs its way into the readers heart. there's even a crazy cat lady, since any animal related story wouldn't be quite complete without one!
in addition to the dynamics of our relationships with animals, Kittle definitely takes a good, hard look at human relationships and the institution of marriage from various angles. the endless list of characters are almost all presented in their relationship form. the obvious divorce of Cam and Bobby strikes up the traditional marriage situation, but also the Davids (legally unable to marry) and Helen and Hank (who choose to remain happily unmarried), and even Cam's parents celebrating their epic 50th wedding anniversary (having survived infidelity, no less) all provide varying perspectives of relationships. the stability and ultimate happiness of any relationship comes, obviously, from within the people rather than the institution itself and Kittle does a great job of portraying this, as well as the opposing strengths that do inevitably exist within the sanctity of marriage.
but, ultimately, Kittle writes about the strength that exists in humans to overcome, to forgive, and to nurture, through parenting or doctoring or cooking, or whatever. it doesn't really matter how, but we are all capable somehow of supporting those people in our lives that we love, in times of need and in times of joy, and Kittle couldn't have made that message any clearer.
this would make a great addition to any summer reading pile and i would definitely recommend it, not only for animal lovers or parents or divorcees, but for anyone that believes that emotional hardship can and should make you a better, stronger person.