The title of this book reeled me in immediately, as did the cover – even though I’m not a horse person, the bond depicted between woman and horse touched my heart. When I read the endorsement by Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, on the back of the book, I was intrigued: “A must read not only for animal lovers, but for anyone who has found the courage to come back from heartbreak and find love again, without reservation, without fear.” Another endorsement, by Lesley Kagan, author of Tomorrow River, “Wonderfully poignant… A deeply satisfying exploration of love in its many incarnations, some of them a bit furrier than others,” sealed the deal. And I wasn’t disappointed. Far from it – these two endorsements barely scratch the surface of how wonderful this book is.
The Blessings of the Animals is the story of Ohio veterinarian Cami Anderson. From the publisher: Cami has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life. But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.
The horse is not the only animal who helps Cami heal. There’s a dog, two cats, one of them a cranky but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by Cami, a joyful goat, and a pregnant donkey. Cami’s form of prayer is being in the presence of animals. As someone who’s always turned to animals for healing and finding peace myself, I was deeply touched by the segments of the book when Cami goes to what she calls her “church”- her barn. Being in the company of her animals never fails to work its magic for Cami, no matter how painful the twists and turns of her life have become. Kittle’s sensitive descriptions of the animals and their unique personalities are delightful and are an integral part of the story.
This is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters, both human and furry. I had a hard time putting this book down, but forced myself to read slowly and savor every page. I didn’t want it to end – and by the time it did, I felt like I knew all the characters as well as if they had been lifelong friends.
Katrina is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers. When not writing, Katrina enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling, acting, and time spent in the presence of animals (especially horses). She is the proud aunt of Amy and Nathan, and lives in the Dayton area with her cat and a kickass garden. You can learn more about Katrina and her books on her website.