Author: Neil Abramson
Release Date: August 4, 2011
Publisher: Center Street
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Though Helena has died, she is finding trouble letting go of the world she knew so well. As a veterinarian, she knew and loved many animals, but she can’t help but feel that her life was completely meaningless. As Helena follows her bereft husband, David, he must learn to live without his beloved wife, struggling with the legacy she left behind.
Though I’m not necessarily an animal person (I do love dogs, but also am not sure I want the responsibility of owning one right now), Unsaid was a book that appealed to me immediately. I first heard about it at the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Conference in 2011, when Abramson was on a panel. He mentioned that he wrote Unsaid for his wife, who is a veterinarian. She is haunted by the thought that, when she passes, she will have to face all the animals she kept alive too long because of a family’s need for them as well as the animals she put down too quickly. There was not a dry eye in the room as Abramson was speaking, and it convinced me I had to read this novel.
Unsaid is an impressive debut novel. The book revolves around David; his sense of grief and loss is palpable throughout the novel. His sadness at his wife’s death permeates the entire book. It’s clear that he has no idea what to do with himself now that Helena is gone. Abramson spends time patiently developing David’s character, making sure the reader gets to know him, and it pays off. The reader really comes to care about David and wants him to find a place of happiness now that Helena is gone.
The entire book is really a tribute to the power of animals, and how wonderful sharing your life with an animal (or multiple animals) can be. It’s here that I was afraid that Unsaid would be a bit cheesy or over-the-top, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Abramson beautifully displays the unconditional love of animals and how much it really can change a person. Time and time again, I found myself holding back tears because of the real love displayed in this novel. I can’t really describe it without sounding like a bit of a fool, but trust me, it is amazing.
Towards the end of Unsaid, the novel changes from a quiet, contemplative read to a courtroom drama. I’ll admit, I didn’t love this transformation after it first happened, but as it progressed, I found myself engrossed in this new turn of events. Abramson’s pacing is excellent and he doesn’t resort to the clichés of the genre. It’s also gratifying to see how far David has come as a character in these scenes.
Unsaid was really a remarkable novel, and I feel like I’m not even scratching the surface with this review. It’s difficult to do justice to its beauty and elegance. It’s a simple book with a lovely message – whether animal or human, we have a responsibility to those in our lives whom we love.