13 August 2011

An Animal's Guide to Earthly Salvation by Jack R. Johnson

Character Development       3
Editing                                  5
Sex                                        1
Violence                               0
Romance                              0
Readability/Flow                 4

'An Animal's Guide to Earthly Salvation' is a mercifully short book. It is a brief look into a crossroads in Jeffery Rawlings' life. From the blurb on the back, I must admit, I was expecting some fun characters and great humour.

Here's what the back of the book has to say:
An assistant at an urban veterinary clinic, Jeffery Rawlings has decided to take a break from graduate studies and, instead, pulls night shift at an animal hospital while studying the modern philosophers - "from Kierkgaard to Marx" - to no avail: Wounded animals hound his existence. Jeffery's hypochondriac mother may be dying of ovarian cancer, his money-hungry sister needs bucks for her 40-year-old husband's braces, and a heroin-hooked runaway is set on his seduction. Meanwhile, the neighborhood transvestite swears he is Billie Holiday raised from the dead. But the worst comes when his perpetually indiscreet Uncle Raymond winds up getting shot. Soon enough, Jeffery learns, it's not just the animals that need a cure.
 Here's what I have to say:
Jack Johnson's book is definitely readable. The writing flows and his use of language and syntax paint vivid scenes. It is easy to visualize the events that transpire. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I connected with any of the characters enough to care about their sad lives. Jack's family, including the slimy uncle, were pretty much just a waste of skin. The only possible exception to this rule was Jack's dad - but I'm only basing this observation on one incident in the story. Scott/Billie was a non-starter. He had so much potential but didn't live up to my expectations. I could go on but you get the idea.

There is a fair amount of philosophical discussion and dark humour throughout the narrative and if that is something you enjoy, this book should be right up your alley. Sadly, it wasn't even in my neighbourhood.


  1. Perhaps not the book for me, but I enjoyed the review (and now I do need to read it ;)

  2. The summary on the back of the book sounds great. I've never heard of thi book but I would have picked it up based on the back. Sorry it didn't work for you. I like flawed characters a lot but they need some redeeming qualities! I think some philosophical discussion incorporated into the story well is a great idea but it doesn't sound like it was done well here. My husband was a philosophy major so I might show him the book.
    I appreciate you honestly!

  3. Amy - your husband may really like it.

  4. The book summary does sound interesting which makes it really disappointing when the book itself doesn't live up to the promise.
    Alexander McCall Smith weaves in philosophy in his Isabel Dalhousie series very well, without pontificating or detracting from the story.


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