At the very beginning of their relationship, Bobby and the delicious food he prepares rescue Cami from her very dangerous battle with anorexia. Cami Anderson always realized that her marriage to chef and restaurant owner Bobby Binardi was less than perfect. But she tries to keep things from spinning out of control during his frequent volatile and dark moods. When he announces "I don't want to be married anymore" and walks out the door after 18 years of marriage, Cami is bewildered and hurt. She is left to explain Bobby's actions to their 17-year-old daughter and all their relatives and friends. Bobby takes up with a very young waitress from his restaurant who had also worked in Cami's animal clinic. Naturally she feels betrayed.
Cami finds herself examining everyone's relationship --- her parents' almost 50-year marriage, which she knows contains infidelity and forgiveness, her gay brother's committed relationship, even her daughter's dating habits --- to try to make sense of what makes a relationship work, and if and when it should be allowed to die a natural death. As she pursues a complicated relationship with a lifelong friend, Vijay, and spends time with a divorce-weary musician, still she agonizes over how (or even if) her marriage could have been saved.
Cami's solace and form of prayer is "being in the presence of animals." As a volunteer for the Humane Society, she often participates in the rescue of damaged and abused animals. Her barn and home are rapidly filling up with pets and rescues. Her pets, some of whom are rescues originally, are soon joined by more rescues: Gerald, an orange stray cat she rescues from an animal trap, whose leg she has to amputate to save him; Moonshot, an untamed horse who kicks at her and bites her forearm, but also teaches her some important life lessons as he continually challenges her; Zuzu, a boxer puppy dumped on her by Bobby not long after she performs lifesaving surgery on the little guy; and a pregnant donkey named Luna. Here we have a barn full of misfits, all of whom require the loving care Cami can provide nearly as much as she needs to be useful and busy in the joyful presence of her animals.
Cami soon learns how messy life can be. Bobby and his young lover separate; then, in Las Vegas, he marries someone he has known for only two days. Vijay and Cami's lifelong friendship unravels. Her brother Davy and his partner attempt adoption. And Cami is startled to find out who has strayed in her parents’ marriage.
In this fourth novel by Katrina Kittle --- the critically acclaimed author of THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS --- readers will realize just how very complicated relationships are and that what looks like a perfect situation from the outside really may not be so on the inside. Perhaps Cami's advice would be: Proceed --- with caution.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 11, 2011
The Blessings of the Animals