Sunday, October 5, 2014

Book Review: Animal Cracker

By Jami Deise

Everyone has job horror stories. At the worst place I’d ever worked, my new boss casually told me on my first day that two staffers had abruptly quit the week before, no notice given. At the time, I naively thought what stupid people they must be, to quit without giving notice. A few months into the job, I knew exactly why they had. HER. That woman. It’s been more than 15 years, and the thought of that woman and what she put me through is still enough to give me nightmares.

If you have or had a similar job, Andi Brown’s Animal Cracker will either be a cathartic read or a book that will cause PTSD flashbacks. Brown’s heroine, Diane Salvi, works as the communication director for the Animal Protection Organization, an umbrella organization for animal shelters in Boston. Just 25 and new at her job, Diane has all the enthusiasm, ideas and energy that people her age bring to these kinds of small organizations. And as often happens, the people at the top do their best to crush her.

APO’s leader is Hal Mason, a 60-something with movie star looks who’s led the organization for 15 years. Somehow he and his wife, Joyce, a professor at Harvard, have two homes worth millions of dollars each. But there’s no money to take over any more shelters. Even while Diane ends up dating Hal’s son Mark, she grows ever more suspicious of her boss. When she catches Hal out with the group’s secretary, and learns he abruptly changed the date of their big gala, Diane plots to get the goods on him once and for all.

The book is nicely populated by a quirky cast of Diane’s co-workers, all different women who share a disgust for Hal. Diane’s also helped out by her roommate, a journalist who wants to use Hal’s story for her big break.

Animal Cracker is self-published, and the writing is a bit uneven, but the story shines through. Idealistic and passionate, Diane is an easy heroine to root for, and her cause is just. She cares deeply for animals, spending her free time volunteering at a shelter, and is a supportive, caring friend. She even makes nice with the woman who stole her boyfriend.

Readers who haven’t worked in the non-profit sector may assume that Brown has written a satire. I can assure you while it’s a funny book, nothing that happens is exaggerated for effect. If you work in a functional office, Animal Cracker is a pleasant, funny diversion. And if your boss is as bad as Hal, the book might give you some good ideas for bringing him down.

Thanks to Andi Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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