SEPTEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 9



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Allen and Linda Anderson's "Angel Animals"

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Kathy Lette's "Altar Ego" - a bohemian romp of sex, drugs and rock and roll

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Stephen Jay Gould's "Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms"

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  Allen and Linda Anderson's Angel Animals

 
ANGEL ANIMALS
by Allen and Linda Anderson

US: Plume, of the Penguin Group, 1999, ISBN 0452280729 (Softcover), price $12.95 USD, price through Amazon.com $10.36 USD.


ANNIE L. CLARK

Ok, find yourself a good spot in which to curl up, a cup of hot chocolate, and a big box of tissues. , Allen and Linda Anderson's "Angel Animals" is a tearjerker and a half for all animal lovers. However, the focus of this book is not to make you cry, but rather, to make you appreciate how wonderful animals are.

"Angel Animals" is not for animal-haters, or even those who don't actively hate pets but don't particularly care for them. It's sappy and at times quite preachy. But for those whose hearts melt when they hear Fluffy purring in the middle of the night or see Tiger's tail wagging a frantic hello when you've been gone for under 10 minutes, this book is absolutely delightful.

I must warn the pet-lovers who do not tend to show much emotion and aren't prone to getting choked up by things like this, you may feel a bit put off. "Angel Animals" has a heavy religious theme, as one might guess from the subtitle, "Exploring our spiritual connection with animals." Each sweet and heart-warming little story about various people's beloved furry or feathered companion is prefaced by a "new-age" style of introduction yammering on about spirituality and how to apply this to your life. Each story is followed by a boxed tip for how to make yourself a better person and be more spiritual by using this story as a guideline.

If you discard the preaching and skip the stories like the ones about discovering God while stroking a dolphin's belly, this is fantastic read that wrenches the heart-strings. It is crammed and crowded with stories about Rover knowing that his master was dying and howling through the night, stories of Simba the cat's tragic final hours before succumbing to feline leukemia, stories of the little African Gray parrot Tweety who brightened up a senior citizen's lonely life.

I would not recommend sitting down and reading this book from cover to cover; rather, this should be used like "Chicken Soup for the Soul" (whose co-author wrote the foreword): Whenever you're feeling a little stressed, angry or sad; furious at Sparky for chewing up those new shoes; or missing Tabby who died two years ago; pick this book up and read a couple of chapters. Yes, your eyes will leak, but it's the good kind of crying, the kind that gives you a little lump in your throat but makes you want to hug someone.

If you are searching for some kind of spiritual help, this book may also give you some guidance. Those who would prefer not to read preaching should simply skip the offending parts and dive into the stories themselves, which are submitted by all sorts of different people from around the world. The book grew out of a website the authors created which encouraged readers to send in their stories of Angel Animals, animals who had shown them that a higher power was working through all creatures great and small. The collection is therefore not written in any one style - which is very refreshing, as is the fact that the stories are not just about cats and dogs but birds, dolphins, seals, raccoons, and more.

Of course, if you do skip the spiritual messages then perhaps you are missing the point of this book. After all, it is intended to help you explore your spiritual connection with your pets and see how animals bring the word of God into human lives. But many people are not interested in this exploration, and follow a different set of beliefs. However, they, if animal lovers, should not deprive themselves of these sweet little vignettes. Read it, cry - gag a little over the sermonizing - wipe your eyes, kiss Wags, visit Patches' gravesite and leave a little flower there.



ANNIE L. CLARK, a linguistics specialist who works in voice-recognition software, is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.



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