Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale

I really, really wanted to like this book. The opening scene of the whale beaching hooked me immediately. The description of it was gorgeous and spine-tingling.

Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is set in a small town on an island on the west coast of Canada. It follows Julie, who has just returned to town to take care of her mentally ill father, a veteran who suffers from PTSD. Things really start getting strange, though, when a whale ends up on the shore, a stranger comes to town, and animals start dying everywhere.

The description of animal life coming and going is by far the strength of this book. The uncanny deaths of various animals occur throughout, and the way that Neale is able to portray these gruesome scenes in vivid detail is amazing.

However, I just wasn’t in the right head space for the kind of message this book was trying to get across – it was just too sad and frankly, disgusting, for me to really enjoy. I realize that is the point and if you aren’t quite as sensitive a reader as me you might be awed by how Neale writes a perfect picture of a decaying town infested with the smell of whale rot, and then uses these natural pictures to attempt to say something about grief. For me, at the time I read it, it was just too much about death without really going anywhere beyond that, and I just want more hope in my books at the moment. However, perhaps for someone who needs to come to terms with letting go as Julie and her father do, it would be the book for them. 

Land Mammals and Sea Creatures comes out May 2018 from ECW Press. 

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