Review: Unsaid by Neil Abramson

Title: Unsaid

Author: Neil Abramson

Published: Center Street August 2011

Synopsis: UNSAID is told from the perspective of Helena Colden, a veterinarian who has just died of breast cancer. Helena is forced to witness the rapid emotional deterioration of her husband David. With Helena’s passing, David, a successful Manhattan attorney, loses the only connection that made his life full. He tries to carry on the life that Helena had created for them, but he is too grief-stricken, too angry, and too quickly reabsorbed into the demands of his career. Helena’s animals likewise struggle with the loss of their understanding and compassionate human companion. Because of Helena, David becomes involved in a court case to save the life of a chimpanzee that may hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of animals consciousness. Through this case all the threads of Helena’s life entwine and explode – unexpectedly, painfully, beautifully.

Status: Read from August 05 to 06, 2011 — I own a copy  {ARC courtesy Hachette/NetGalley}

My Thoughts:

It’s very rare that a book reduces me to tears, but Unsaid had me reaching for the tissues as I read, curled up in the corner of my lounge. To be fair I was also recovering from a nasty illness and rather emotionally vulnerable, but even in hindsight the novel is a powerfully moving and beautiful piece of storytelling.
Helena Colden drifts around the life she has left behind after her death from breast cancer, unable to do anything except witness the grief of her husband, friends and beloved pets. She is reluctant to move on, wracked by guilt over the secrets she has left behind and fearful of the price she may have to pay for her involvement in euthanising animals in her veterinarian practice. Helena narrates the story with a painful longing for what she has lost and left unfinished. While she mourns the loss of her relationship with her husband David, it is her relationship with the animals she has cared for that preoccupies her and is a focus of the story.
Abramson explores the connection between humans and animals and the value each has to the other as companions. David is left to care for Helena’s menagerie of animals with whom he has only a tenuous bond but caring for the pets gives him a means to honour Helena and their presence helps him to heal. Abramson’s theme makes the case that a humans and animal life have equal value, both deserving of dignity and love.
Ultimately, it is Helena’s connection to a chimpanzee that provides the catalyst for both Helena and her husband to move on from her death. Cindy, a four year old chimpanzee who has been the subject of a language study, is threatened with being returned to the general pool of animals available for experimentation. Jaycee, Helena’s former lab partner, asks David to serve as her lawyer to prevent that from happening. Observing, Helena hopes that David will be able to save Cindy and therefore atone for her college sins. Couched in such a highly emotive story, Abramson creates an emotionally compelling case for the respectful treatment of animals and this novel has the potential to re-ignite debate on the ethical treatment of animals.
Beautifully written, Unsaid is a stirring and poignant debut novel that will touch the soul of animal lovers and compassionate readers alike.

Available to Purchase

@ Amazon

@ BookDepository

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