Martin's Must Reads: 'Unlikely Animals'
“Emma Starling didn’t come into Everton the way that took her by Maple Street Cemetery... She didn’t drive by the town square either, so she missed the celebratory sight when the four men and two teenage boys finally caught the wild boar...Boars aren’t native to New Hampshire, but here in Everton, they often dig out underneath the electric fence to escape the private hunting park that spans the Upper Valley.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are some lines from chapter one of Annie Hartnett’s novel Unlikely Animals. Emma is returning home after dropping out of medical school. When she was born the midwife insisted she had miracle healing powers in her hands but now she is sure the healing power has left her.
Her parents and adult brother live in a caretakers home near a private hunting park that includes deer, bear and boars. She’s also come home because her father is dying of a brain disease that causes him to hallucinate. The family thinks that’s why he talks to Ernest Harold Baynes, a real life Doctor Doolittle who was a naturalist for the park almost a century ago. Her father is also obsessed in finding out what happened to Emma’s high school friend, Crystal Nash, who disappeared without a trace.
As the story progresses, Emma is talked into substitute teaching for the local fifth grade class because their teacher is on leave dealing with her husband’s trial for drug trafficking. Cemetery ghosts weigh in on what’s happening in the town, Emma grows to love her students and the hunt for Crystal continues until the surprise ending.
The author was inspired to write this novel after driving by the actual New Hampshire hunting park and reading about the naturalist Ernest Baynes.
If you’re looking for a fun book with memorable characters and a light mystery then you must read Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett.