Saturday, February 23, 2013


A few months ago, my daughter-in-law got a new job working for Animal Control. It's right up her alley and is great practical experience as she works toward a degree in Veterinary Medicine. At first, I asked her all about her job, but it only took a few texts and a few pictures of these abandoned animals before I had to tell her that I couldn't take it; their stories upset me too much.

Not surprisingly, we stopped texting and I started to lose touch with her. It upset me because I felt like we were getting close. I texted her that I didn't want to hear anymore and then realized how hurtful that must have been to her. Her job means a lot to her and I dismissed it. I quickly remedied the situation and told her that I didn't mean she couldn't tell me about her work. I added how much I admire her because it's not a job that many people could handle. I'd been sure that she would want to bring home every stray she encounters. And she does. But she's also practical and professional and knows that she can't.

We continue to text and she sends me pictures of animals in their cages and fills in their back stories. I don't tell her anymore that it upsets me. I want us to be close.

Then I saw a book at the bookstore that made me think of her: Unsaid, by Neil Abramson. The inside flap reads:
As a veterinarian, Helena had mercifully escorted thousands of animals to the other side. Now, having died herself, she finds that it is not so easy to move on. She is terrified that her 37 years of life were meaningless, error-ridden, and forgettable. So Helena haunts-- and is haunted by-- the life she left behind. Meanwhile, David, her shattered attorney husband, struggles with grief and the demands of caring for her houseful of damaged and beloved animals. But it is her absence from her last project, Cindy-- a chimpanzee who may unlock the mystery of communication and consciousness-- that will have the greatest impact on all of them.

When Cindy is scheduled for a research experiment that will undoubtedly take her life, David must call upon everything he has learned from Helena to save her. In the explosive courtroom drama that follows, all the threads of Helena's life entwine and tear as Helena and David confront their mistakes, grief, and loss, and discover the only way to save Cindy is to understand what it really means to be human.

It sounded like it might be a difficult book to read. It sounded depressing, yet compelling. I bought it.
Unsaid is Abramson's debut novel and was well-crafted and as compelling as I'd hoped. He employs the deceased Helena as his narrator, so we see the story unfold from her perspective. It was a clever way to unveil all the emotion that the characters deal with as they work with the animals Helena has left behind. The courtroom drama is also well done. Not surprising since Abramson is an attorney. I was torn between the strong pull of the animal rights perspective and the practical need for scientific research. He balanced that well, and it again reminded me of my daughter-in-law.
It would be simple to be idealistic and wish that every animal in the world had a home and was well taken care of. It would be easy to admonish those who have to take a more practical approach to the animal control problems in the world. What we easily forget is that many of these people love animals and have chosen to work with them.
I could never do Chelsea's job. She is much stronger than I am. The animals that she works with are lucky to be with her, however briefly. She tends to them and takes care of them. She cares for them. I'm going to send her my copy of Unsaid. Like Helena, she's going to make a wonderful vet someday.


  1. Aww... Sadly, the pictures on this post aren't loading for me, but I enjoyed the book commentary and its connections to your own life.

    1. A professor once said that we bring our own life experiences to everything we read. I always think about that and how my own experience colors my perspective when I read. I like to share that; a story in addition to the story, if you will.