DRUNK REVIEW: The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals by Becky Mandelbaum

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals by Becky Mandelbaum

Reviewed by GGGinny

What I drank: So much white wine. It’s the end of the semester and I wanted to celebrate. I also played Hades and got demolished (stupid pact of punishment)…

Goodreads Overview:

From the winner of the 2016 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction comes a tender and funny debut novel, set over one emotionally charged weekend at an animal sanctuary in western Kansas, where maternal, romantic, and community bonds are tested in the wake of an estranged daughter’s homecoming.

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals is in trouble.

It’s late 2016 when Ariel discovers that her mother Mona’s animal sanctuary in Western Kansas has not only been the target of anti-Semitic hate crimes—but that it’s also for sale, due to hidden financial ruin. Ariel, living a new life in progressive Lawrence, and estranged from her mother for six long years, knows she has to return to her childhood home—especially since her own past may have played a role in the attack on the sanctuary. Ariel expects tension, maybe even fury, but she doesn’t anticipate that her first love, a ranch hand named Gideon, will still be working at the Bright Side.

Back in Lawrence, Ariel’s charming but hapless fiancé, Dex, grows paranoid about her sudden departure. After uncovering Mona’s address, he sets out to confront Ariel, but instead finds her grappling with the life she’s abandoned. Amid the reparations with her mother, it’s clear that Ariel is questioning the meaning of her life in Lawrence, and whether she belongs with Dex or with someone else, somewhere else.

Acclaimed writer Pam Houston says that “Mandelbaum is wise beyond her years and twice as talented,” and The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals poignantly explores the unique love and tension between mothers and daughters, and humans and animals alike. Perceptive and funny, moving and eloquent, and ultimately buoyant, Mandelbaum offers a panoramic view of family and forgiveness, and of the meaning of home. Her debut reminds us that love provides refuge, and underscores our similarities as human beings, no matter how alone or far apart we may feel.

Drunk Overview: This is a book with a bunch of POVs. Ultimately the story is that Ariel is estranged from her mother, recently engaged to a man named Dex, and finds out her mother’s animal sanctuary was a target of an anti-semetic attack by her childhood best friend. She goes back to the animal sanctuary in an attempt to make up with her mother.

Drunk Thoughts: Man, I’m still conflicted as to how I feel about this book.

  • First things first, this book absolutely nails the feeling that you can’t go back to “home,” when home is where you lived as a child.
  • No matter what things will have changed even if it was your own perspective. And not living there during those changes means that everything you look at will be different.
  • Honestly this book is full of really well written characters. Even the people I didn’t like, I understood. This includes the anti-semetic a-hole who burned down the barn, the shitty friend of Ariel’s fiance (Buddy), and a whole other cast of characters.
  • This book also included these moments of absolute beauty (these were mostly focused around Jo and Gideon who both seem like people who truly understand themselves and look for the beauty in the world around them.).
  • I will admiit, I found one of the main relationships in the book really frustrating (I’m being vague on purpose in case anyone reads this).
  • I think this book covered how honesty can be really hard in specific areas. There are times where it seems like the truth is going to be harder than anything else. Let’s be honest, talking about failures is never an easy thing to do.
  • But sometimes, you have to talk about those failures in order to grow. I was thikning about writing, “fix the problem” but that felt juvenile.
  • But really this book is focused on how relationships can change and heal even after long periods apart.
  • I liked the backdrop of the small rural town and the animal sanctuary that was constantly struggling.
  • Personally, I found the time setting a little frustrating. We finally escaped trump’s america, I dont’ want to go back to it.

What I’d Pair it With: A shot of Everclear. I want to burn the back of your throat and make you think it may have been a bad idea to have the shot in the first place.

Rating: 4/5

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