Still Life with Elephant by Judy Reene Singer

Secrets are like plants. They can stay buried deep in the earth for a long time, but eventually they’ll send up shoots and give themselves away. They have to. It’s their nature. Just a tiny green stem at first. Which slowly, insidiously grows taller, stronger, unfolding itself, until there it is. A big fat secret, right in front of your face; a fully bloomed flower perfumed with the scent of deception.

Redonk Nutshell: Woman finds purpose during a life crisis by rehabilitating a wild elephant and its baby

Yet another random pick from the library I scooped up on a whim.

Neelie Sterling’s life isn’t perfect, but she’s in a good place.  She has a job she enjoys, friends and family that adore her, despite her quirky inability to hear things correctly, and a husband that loves her.  Or at least she thought he did until she gets a call from his lover informing her she’s three months pregnant.

Thus begins the whirlwind descent to rock bottom. She discovers her husband’s deceit also left her broke and likely homeless. She goes from day to day on autopilot, breaking free from monotony only when she gets a call from a friend about a super top secret animal project.  Neelie rehabilitates horses for a living, and she can’t help but obsess over what, exactly, this “super secret” is.  It turns out to be a highly illegal elephant retrieval from the heart of Zimbabwe.  Neelie offers her services, and joins a team of men, including her soon-to-be-ex, that will bring back the elephant and work to rehabilitate it in the states.

I had a few thoughts about this book. Firstly, it’s not a happy book. Neelie’s path is dark and depressing, but the good news is that she manages to find her own redemption.  It takes awhile for her to get there, but she does.  Second, I took issue with what would become the humor point of the book, Neelie’s inherent habit of misinterpreting half of what people say to her.  It supposedly stems from post-traumatic stress from an incident in her youth, but I didn’t really but it.  I thought it was downright annoying, and, though I hesitate to admit it, I can understand why her husband thought she was distant.  Still doesn’t excuse his actions…BUT…I’m just sayin…

Neelie manages to reconnect with her roots while learning how to work with a very angry and possessive elephant. It’s an uphill battle, one that doesn’t permit her much baggage. She comes out in the end with a clear purpose and a fresh outlook.

This was an enjoyable, though austere, read.  I wasn’t particularly attached to Neelie, though I sympathized with her plight.  This is a guaranteed-to-be-liked book for any animal lover.

Still Life with Elephant by Judy Reene Singer

Rating: C

Romance: 2/5          Raunch: 1/5

 

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