Reviewed by Jeanne
I just finished a book which should have left me weeping. It covered the death of a parent, the author’s struggle with grief and clinical depression, loss of more than one beloved pet, and a mother’s decent into dementia. This isn’t my usual fare of choice, but then again this isn’t a usual book.
Readers of this blog will know that I already gave a rave review to Kitty Cornered (and no, it wasn’t just because of all the cats) and to Tarte’s first book, Enslaved by Ducks, which described just how a guy with no animal ambitions whatsoever ended up with bunnies, cats, geese, ducks, turkeys, a dove, a parrot and, well, I kind of lost track. Suffice it to say one critter leads to another.
Fowl Weather is actually the second book, picking up not long after Ducks. It’s another very funny book, filled with delightful and memorable characters, some of whom are even human; but as I indicated above, it faces many of life’s darker moments and does so not only with courage and grace but humor. Laugh out loud humor. Really.
Early in the book, Bob gets one of those life changing calls when he learns his father has died suddenly. There had been no warning. He’d been out shoveling snow, digging out from a Michigan winter, when he fell. He made it as far as the bed before he succumbed to a heart attack. Numb, Bob and his sisters help his mother with arrangements, legal issues and practical decisions, and try to adjust to the new normal.
Many years ago I read a line that has stayed with me: no matter how old you are, you’re never ready to be an orphan. It still rings true.
Bob and his sisters take turns checking on his mother, all the while Bob is battling a return of his depression, serious illnesses among some of his beloved pets, and trying to deal with a former classmate who apparently believes that no one’s life is so complete that it can’t be better if she “helps” out. A new complication soon emerges, as Bob’s mother calls to complain that the neighbors are shunning her and that some of them are borrowing things without asking. Then come the calls about her lost keys, lost purse, and even lost car. I think the "purse finder" solution is particularly ingenious and thought a few seconds about the possibility of using it for my car keys, purse, and my grocery list but decided that wasn't quite feasible.
Among Tarte’s gifts is the ability to see humor and irony in even the grimmest situation. He doesn’t belittle or make light of the problems; he does make them bearable without casting himself as a superhero or victim. The animals are still foremost among the characters, including Stanley Sue the African grey parrot (whose name evolved after it was discovered “he” was actually she), Ollie the pocket parrot version of Mussolini, Moobie the cat who trains humans to hold her water bowl for her and Rudy the dwarf rabbit who, if he isn’t the reincarnation of Houdini, does a fine impression nonetheless.
I can honestly say I haven’t read another book that handled such difficult issues while making me laugh so much. I’d recommend reading Enslaved by Ducks first so that you understand how the Tartes amassed their menagerie but it’s certainly not mandatory.
The earlier review is here.
Bob Tarte has photos of most of the furred and feathered characters posted at his website www.bobtarte.com.