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Meredith Walters
This Animal Body
Neuroscience PhD student Frankie Conner sets out to discover a cure for her depression but instead finds herself unexpectedly confronting her past. Will she risk her dreams for the future to discover the truth about a mysterious group of talking animals who show up with an urgent, life-changing message?
This warm, deeply humane novel from Walters (author of The Adventures Of Little One) centers a narrative that encompasses fantasy, animal rights, philosophy, spirituality, neuroscience, and mental health issues around an anxious Ph.D. candidate named Frankie. As she enters a neuroscience program with a demanding and cruel professor who inveighs against “the grave scientific error of anthropomorphizing animals or assuming they’re more intelligent than they are,” Frankie is startled to encounter, in her dreams, a group of talking animals: everything from a kindly wolf, a spunky squirrel, and a philosophical cockroach challenges, comforts, and urges her to remember the truth about who she really is.

Seamlessly blending elements of fabulism and fantasy with a focus on science and mental health, Walters’ story will appeal to readers interested in the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit, as well as our indelible connection to nature. Along the way, Frankie decides to probe into the mysteries of her adoption. Her sensitivity to animals and how they communicate is informed by the dream animals, who provide her with crucial information that helps her set up fruitful experiments of her own, in defiance of her professor. Dream and reality intersect more deeply when Frankie discovers her dream animals are real—and that the beloved wolf she calls Mama is in danger.

Walters surprises as the story’s scope expands beyond saving individual animals to headier consents: Frankie's mission, ultimately, is to help transform other humans. The way Walters depicts Frankie as being confused, prone to bursts of irrational and impulsive behavior, and even moments of cruelty makes her a deeply sympathetic, complex protagonist. The supporting characters are all given their own moments to shine and express their own emotional and spiritual complexity. The peace that Frankie finds is well-earned through the narrative as Walters honors all the ways of seeing the world: with your brain, with your heart, with your senses, and with your soul.

Takeaway: Surprising novel of animal intelligence and connection.

Comparable Titles: Lee Mandelo’s Feed Them Silence, Sheri S. Tepper’s The Family Tree.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A