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Zoology [Paperback]

Ben Dolnick

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Book Description

May 8 2007 Vintage Contemporaries
Zoology is the story of Henry Elinsky, a college flunk-out who takes a job at the Central Park Zoo and discovers that becoming an adult takes a lot more than just a weekly paycheck.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 8 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279156
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,211,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The animal residents of the Central Park Children's Zoo are not the only creatures gently scrutinized in Dolnick's charming debut, a light bildungsroman about shoveling goat poop and growing up. Henry Elinsky, helplessly ordinary, has flunked out after his first semester of college and is living at home in Chevy Chase, Md. Besieged by his father's unrelenting optimism, his mother's unhappiness and his uncle's hypersensitivity, Henry joins his older brother in New York City and takes a job as a keeper at the Children's Zoo. Henry's time in the city is a whirlwind of self-discovery: he cleans animal pens, receives the testy treatment from his brother's rich, bitchy girlfriend and realizes his would-be career as a saxophonist isn't all that promising. Henry also revels in his unrequited passion for young aspiring writer Margaret, even though he knows he and Margaret cannot be together. It takes a family crisis and a monumental error of judgment at the zoo to nudge Henry onward. Dolnick can capture in one surprisingly lucid phrase the essence of a situation, though his narrator's benign travails may not resonate with readers not of the 18–25 demographic. This is very much a young man's book; it will be interesting to see what Dolnick does next. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Henry Elinsky is asked by the dean to "take some time off" from his freshman year, he briefly returns home to Chevy Chase and a job at his old elementary school. Depressed at being back under the roof of his barely speaking parents, Henry jumps at his older brother David's invitation to join him and his girlfriend in New York for the summer. Henry lands a job in the Central Park Children's Zoo, but the hours are long, and shoveling poop and chopping endless vegetables are not so glamorous. Circumstances improve when Henry meets Margaret, also in New York for the summer. Although she has a boyfriend back home, Margaret and Henry seem to be kindred spirits. She shares personal childhood moments, and Henry shares his quirky zoo world. He not only falls in love but also begins to emerge from his self-absorbed state, becoming more perceptive of those around him. Dolnick's coming-of-age debut sparkles with wit and insightful commentary on the human need for unquestioning devotion--including that offered by our animal companions. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read May 26 2007
By fred - Published on Amazon.com
wow, what a fantastic book. ben dolnick has created a winsome, earnest, throughly endearing everyman. henry reminds me so much of myself at times that it's unsettling. and at times, laugh out loud funny. this is the kind of book i'd end up writing if i could, and i suspect there are many people out there who will feel the same way once they read it. especially any thoughtful college-age and post-grad dudes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Debut July 20 2007
By Sammy - Published on Amazon.com
Talented writing skills by a young author. His lines are sparse and precise. There are some great observations about inner feelings and his depiction of New York City is accurate. Pretty impressive for someone just out of college. Looking forward to his next offering.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, on people and other animals July 22 2007
By Barbara J. King - Published on Amazon.com
First of all, I'm neither a relative or friend or acquaintance of Dolnick's (and the assumption that he's got relatives etc. writing positive reviews here is a cheap shot). I enjoyed "Zoology" very much. In some ways it reminded me of Jonathan Tropper's The Book of Joe Yet what's unusual about "Zoology" is that Henry is such a well-drawn character that we feel his hope and love, his sadness and his despair, while at the same time we see the world through his limited understanding. I don't think there are loose ends, or plot lines that are brought in and then dropped-- we don't understand so much about Henry's parents' marriage, because what (grown) child does? We don't know the details of his brother's relationship troubles, because Henry doesn't. He's wrapped up in his own life, and he's young and not fully intuitive about others: that's all internally consistent in the book. A real bonus for me was the tenderness with which Dolnick writes about animals-- Newman, especially, but others too. (That an animal named "Newman" is lost by Henry at that point in the narrative is pretty telling.) The idea here is that other animals can comfort us in ways humans often cannot: how true! I've noticed that the Amazon reviews of my own book Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion amount to a really fascinating mix of positive and not so positive. This has made me take notice when critiques seem to wish for a different book than the one the author has chosen to write! Why not at least consider WHY Dolnick chose to leave us with not-fully-resolved issues in Henry's world? Varied opinions, obviously, are the stuff of book reviewing; I just hope the negative reviews here don't turn people off, as "Zoology" has a lot to offer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A puzzling story Feb. 22 2008
By M. T. Guzman - Published on Amazon.com
Henry Elinsky, a college drop-out, moves to New York where he resides with his brother David and David's girlfriend Lucy. Lacking skills for a more prestigious job, Henry finds employment in Central Park Zoo. Henry's lackluster life takes a turn for the better, or so he thinks, when he finds a friend in Margaret, a young woman temporarily staying in his apartment building.

I admit that I chose to read this book because the author grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I honestly don't know if I liked this book or not. What seemed to be lacking was my feeling connected to a person (or even an animal) in the story. I kept seeing glances of many characters but felt I never did truly know their stories. Later I was thinking that perhaps this *was* the purpose of the story. Simply put, at a very precarious time in the life of Henry Elinsky, he was not attached to anyone. He felt alienated from school, from friends, and even from family.

This book may actually be good reading for a young person who is in a state of "drift". Haven't we all had such a state as a young adult?

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: There were puzzling things in the story - all of which made me crazy. Why was Margaret such a tease? Why had no positive things happened to Henry? How did he make the decision to go back to school? Why did Henry get such a weird last letter from Margaret? Why were Henry's parents' problems and Lucy's annoyance only alluded to and not explored more deeply?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay book Oct. 12 2009
By Phoebe - Published on Amazon.com
I like Dolnick's writing style and he provides a realistic account of an aimless 19 year old's experience in NYC, dealing with the disappointment of unrequited love, working at a job that is not a career, and dealing with changing family dynamics. However, being inside the main character's head gets depressing and boring after a while. I wanted to know more about his parents' marital problems, which are never fully explained. His love for a woman who is obviously not interested becomes tedious. Also, something must have happened with Newman. It's hard to believe that he would not have been found one way or another and that he never would have found out.

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