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The Last Animal

Stories

List Price: $15.95

October 14, 2014 | Paperback |  6 x 9, 304 Pages | ISBN 9781619024373
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Winner of the 2014 Friends of American Writers Chicago Literary Award in Fiction

The Last Animal by Abby Geni is that rare literary find — a remarkable series of stories unified around one theme: people who use the interface between the human and the natural world to contend with their modern challenges in love, loss, and family life. These are vibrant, weighty stories that herald the arrival of a young writer of surprising feeling and depth.

“Terror Birds” tracks the dissolution of a marriage set against an ostrich farm in the sweltering Arizona desert; “Dharma at the Gate” features the tempest of young love as a teenage girl must choose between man’s best friend, her damaged boyfriend, and a beckoning future; “Captivity” follows an octopus handler at an aquarium still haunted by the disappearance of her brother years ago; “The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr” details a Greek chorus of Jewish girls at a summer camp whose favorite counselor goes missing under suspicious circumstances; “In the Spirit Room” centers on a scientist suffering the heartbreaking loss of a parent from Alzheimer’s while living in the natural history museum where they both worked; in “Fire Blight” a father grieving over his wife’s recent miscarriage finds an outlet for comfort in their backyard garden and makes a surprising discovery on how to cherish living things; and in the title story, a retired woman traces the steps of the husband who left her thirty years ago, burning the letters he had sent along the way, while the luminous and exotic wildlife of the Pacific Ocean opens up to receive her.

Unflinching, exciting, ambitious and yet heartfelt, The Last Animal will guide readers through a menagerie of settings and landscapes as it underscores the connection among all living things.

About Abby Geni

ABBY GENI is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of an Iowa Fellowship. “Captivity” won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and was listed in 2010 Best American Short Stories; it was also selected for inclusion in New Stories from the Midwest, published by Ohio University Press. Her stories have also received Honorable Mentions in the Kate Baverman Short Story Prize and in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Competition. She lives in Chicago, where she is at work on a novel. For more information, www.abbygeni.com.

Praise

“Human predicaments are complemented by the wild natural world in this excellent debut story collection from Chicago-based author Geni. The characters and events here are unusual and far-reaching, but Geni’s careful craftsmanship renders them immediate and real. Each story is threaded with page-turning, deeply felt tension, yet each has also been planted with a seed of magic in varying stages of growth… An entrancing collection, recommended even for those who generally shy away from short story.” —Kirkus Starred Review

“The short stories in Geni’s debut collection beautifully reveal how exposure to nature helps people in emotional pain to recover. In each well-researched piece, Geni vividly depicts the setting, as well as the animals or plants that play important roles…All ten stories here are wonderfully written, with precise language and a true compassion for the hardships of the characters. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal Starred Review

“Varied in perspective and setting, the stories take on an almost mythical quality.” —Publishers Weekly

“I have known for a while that Abby Geni is a brilliant writer, and I’m happy that at last the world will find out. These are sharp, incisive, thoughtful, and utterly original stories, and I recommend this book with all my heart!” —Dan Chaon, National Book Award finalist and author of Stay Awake and Await Your Reply

“Combining the cool precision of a naturalist with the heart of a born storyteller, Abby Geni catalogues an astounding array of characters whose lives have been undone by the mysterious departures and disappearances of loved ones. Instead of solving these mysteries, she plunges us deeper into them, and the results, like so many of the creatures in this book, are strange, haunting, and beautiful.” —Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men

“Abby Geni is a sharpshooter, a tamer of wild animals, a clear-eyed wonder. The Last Animal is a phenomenally ambitious debut collection and announces Geni’s many talents to the world with the volume of a herd of stampeding elephants. I loved this book, and you will, too.” —Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers

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