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Algonquin Books
of Chapel Hill

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 "A wry memoir
by a Midwest-based reviewer of world music
who naively buys a
rabbit and eventually
finds himself playing
hand servant to a
collection of emotionally damaged parrots, geese, turkeys, and other birds.
Try living with a parrot -
you might wind up on
Zoloft, too."


Bill Maher,
The Atlantic Monthly
October 2006

 

When Bob Tarte left the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan for the country, he was thinking peace and quiet. He'd write his music reviews in the solitude of his rural home on the outskirts of everything.

Then he married Linda. She wanted a rabbit. How much trouble, he thought, could a bunny be?

Well, after the bunny chewed his way through the electrical wires and then hid inside the wall, Bob realized that he had been outwitted. But that was just the beginning. There were parrots, more rabbits, then ducks and African geese. The orphaned turkeys stranded on a nearby road. The abandoned starlings. The sad duck for sale for 25 cents.

Bob suddenly found himself constructing pens, cages, barriers, buying feed, clearing duck waste, spoonfeeding at mealtime. One day he realized that he no longer had a life of quiet serenity, but that he'd become a servant to a relentlessly demanding family: Stanley Sue, a gender-switching African grey parrot; Hector, a cantankerous shoulder-sitting Muscovy duck; Howard, an amorous ring-neck dove; and a motley crew of others. Somehow, against every instinct in him, Bob had unwittingly become their slave.

He read all the classic animal books - The Parrot Who Owns Me, The Dog who Rescues Cats, Arnie the Darling Starling, That Quail Robert, The Cat Who Came for Christmas - about the joys of animals, the touching moments. But none revealed what it was really like to live with an unruly menagerie.

Bob Tarte's witty account reveals the truth of animal ownership: who really owns who, the complicated logistics of accommodating many species under one roof, the intricate routines that evolve, and ultimately, the distinct and insistent personalities of every animal in the house - and on its perimeter. Writing as someone who's been ambushed by the way in which animals - even cranky ones - can wend their way into one’s heart, Bob Tarte is James Herriott by way of Bill Bryson.

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