The Last Animal – Abby Geni

The Last AnimalMy first introduction to Abby Geni was The Lightkeepers, a book that I enjoyed mainly because of the atmosphere that Geni created with her writing. When I was reading it I knew that her voice would lend itself to short stories, so I was delighted that she had already written a collection. The stories in The Last Animal all deal with grief in some form, whether that be losing a loved one, a relationship, one’s health, one’s family. Grief seeps through the pages and the characters often turn to nature to understand or to heal. This theme was also a main feature of The Lightkeepers, but it felt more polished in these stories. The form lends itself to intimacy and small moments, making the impact of the emotions far greater.

Like most collections, there were some stories that stood out and some that appealed less to me. My particular favourites were Terror Birds and Captivity. The former is set on an ostrich farm where a young boy discovers that his father is having an affair. His attempts to save his parents’ marriage and his family have devastating consequences. The latter focuses on Mara, an aquarium worker who has moved back in with her mother after a break-up. Their relationship is fraught with tension, and living in close proximity forces them to confront the disappearance of Mara’s brother seven years ago. Their different approaches to grief collide in a tragic and very real way.

Sadly the title story of this collection was one of my least favourites. A shame considering it was the story that the collection ended on. Whether this is because by the end of the book my brain was tired of the overarching themes of loss and love, or because it simply was not as enticing, I don’t quite know.

Overall though, I enjoyed it immensely. The descriptions and explorations of the natural world were beautiful and Geni’s understanding of the complex ways that loss affects us is insightful. I hope she publishes another collection because it is where her writing shines.

The Lightkeepers – Abby Geni

I’d had The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni on my wishlist for quite a while and last Christmas I received it as a present from my Mum. I’d almost forgotten that I had it on my wishlist, but I was delighted to receive it. Perhaps it was the cold January weather, but the beautiful cover and promise of a tale set on a desolate island called out to me. It was the perfect time of year to read this book.

The Lightkeepers

The Lightkeepers was published in 2016 and is Abby Geni’s debut novel. It follows Miranda, a nature photographer in her thirties, who has gone to live in the remote Farallon Islands for a year. The only other humans living on this archipelago are six biologists, each of whom have chosen to live in this isolated world for their own unique reasons. A couple of months after her arrival, Miranda is raped. The book explores the consequences of this trauma against a backdrop of the deadly and beautiful nature of the Farallon Islands. Continue reading