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Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small    by Rita Mae Brown order for
Animal Magnetism
by Rita Mae Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Rita Mae Brown, bestselling author of both the Mrs. Murphy (written with her cat Sneaky Pie Brown) and the "Sister" Jane Foxhunting mystery series now offers her multitude of fans Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small, which is dedicated to 'those who have been saved by an animal and who have saved one in return.'

Chapters are biographical essays that not only give insights into the author's childhood, Southern upbringing, her remarkable mother, and lifelong love for critters of all shapes and sizes (photos of many of them are included in the book), but also talk about relationships between humans and animals in general, and offer solid life lessons for all ages. The latter include the fact that over the centuries 'a sense of responsibility for one's actions has been erased' and the wry observation that 'Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.'

The Introduction sets the tone. In it, Brown reminds us that 'Each species has its own sophisticated communication system. Animals learn ours but we rarely learn theirs ... There's no such thing as a dumb dog, but God knows there are continents filled with dumb humans.' She tells us that her 'book is about the sweep and sweepings of a life lived closed to nature and lived with a deep respect and sometimes fear of Earth's other residents.' And towards the end, she shares: 'What animals have taught me is wisdom, deep wisdom.'

There are quite a few nuggets of wisdom within this little book. Of human's vaunted superiority in language, Brown comments 'Humans do seem to have a more sophisticated level of language skills, but ... Mostly it's noise. Few people say anything of consequence ...' On encountering cruelty to animals, she advises 'do what you must when you must.' She advocates for honoring the human contract with animals and treating them decently.

I especially enjoyed Brown's diatribe on animal emotions in which she argues 'I am not blinded by science. I don't need answers for much of what I don't know ... I fear we are hag-ridden by logic, losing spontaneous beauty and wisdom ... Anyone who thinks animals don't have emotions is a blistering idiot.' Hear, hear! If you are an animal lover, a fan of Rita Mae Brown's mysteries, or are simply interested in sound life values, Animal Magnetism is a must read.

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