By Abby Geni
Counterpoint, $24.00, 304 pages
Ten stories, one writer, and a dynamic prism of consciousness – Abby Geni’s debut book The Last Animal is a collection of short stories exuding the power of narrative taking on various themes but nearly always centered around a core urge for personal liberation and discovering new or finding lost connections.
Geni’s stories are essentially character-driven but they all present the ideal proportion of character, plot, and metaphor. The sustained metaphor of “animal” is central to the narratives in this book. The narration and points-of-view of Geni’s stories tend to drive the reader compulsively toward a mystery which is part the character’s consciousness and part the reader’s perception of the situation in the narrative. Of significant interest to one’s reading experience of this book is the range of regional depiction – from Arizona to Ohio, and Mexico – giving a different setting but not entirely different meaning to personal experiences; it’s like a continuum of existence in different states of the same consciousness manifested in different places.
“Even a terrified parrot cannot be expected to live on the brink of anxiety all the time.”
Both genders have been presented as central characters in Geni’s stories and her leads appear as complex and intense. Sometimes it’s a mom heeding the urge of her unborn son (Landscaping); at other times, a man suffering with cancer refusing treatment and pursuing a dream (Silence); and still others, an aging woman visiting a foreign land and making connection with life in the sea that goes beyond touch and physical perception (The Last Animal). Each story is unique; each page is a joy to read.
For those of a refined literary taste in fiction, look no further – The Last Animal is your book.
Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey