Cover image for Animal heart : a novel
Animal heart : a novel
Peterson, Brenda, 1950-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : Sierra Club Books ; Berkeley, Calif. : Distributed by University of California Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
292 pages ; 24 cm
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Presents the story of a man who is given a baboon heart and begins dreaming about a baboon in trouble, eventually rescuing her from an animal testing lab before trying to stop military experiments that are harming sea animals.

Author Notes

Brenda Peterson is the author of three novels, two collections of essays, and numerous articles. She lives in Seattle.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Nature writer and novelist Peterson, author of Build Me an Ark (2001), brings her expertise in wildlife to a thought-provoking tale that is part romance and part ecothriller. Set on the ravishing Oregon coast, it stars Isabel Spinner, a tai chi-practicing forensic wildlife pathologist with a mystical oceanic heritage. She becomes involved with Marshall, whose life is saved with the transplanted heart of a baboon. As he copes with disorienting visions of baboon life on the African savannah, Isabel investigates a tragic mass stranding of dozens of dolphins and whales and discovers that the U.S. Navy is conducting secrets tests of low-frequency active radar, a highly controversial new weapon that has proven, in real life, to be brutally deadly to marine life. Peterson's hectic plot also involves primates subjected to macabre genetic-engineering experiments and chimps who know sign language. Although somewhat ungainly, this is a galvanizing and enlightening tale thanks to Peterson's expert portrayal of animals, compassionate view of radical activism, and illuminating insights into our profound bonds with other species. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist and nature writer Peterson (Duck and Cover; Nature and Our Mothers) crafts an uneven and melodramatic but gripping tale about love, xenotransplantation (transplanting organs and tissue across species) and the military-industrial complex's flagrant disregard for environmental responsibility. Two forensic wildlife pathologists-Isabel Spinner (a restless, dedicated animal lover and second-generation Scot) and Marian Windhorse Gray (a beautiful, flirty Oskeena Native American)-join Isabel's underwater photographer brother, Andrew, and his associate, obsidian-eyed Marshall McGreggor, for a dive to photograph an undersea volcano off the Oregon coast, when Marshall suffers a massive coronary. Lacking a healthy human heart, doctors implant the heart of a baboon, forcing Marshall to come to terms with his status as xenotransplantation guinea pig as well as his sudden and disturbing dreams of being a baboon on a savanna. He makes a miraculous recovery and becomes friends with spunky Irene Feinstein, a young woman with a pig valve in her heart, but is increasingly troubled by dreams of Hara, a female baboon in distress. Meanwhile, a disastrous beaching of whales and dolphins on the Oregon coast leads to the discovery that underwater U.S. military experiments with mid-to-low-frequency active sonar may be destroying the inner ears of the sea mammals. Is this just sonar-or the prototype for some new and terrible weapon? When Irene tells Marshall that Hara is being held in a Portland animal testing lab, they, aided by Andrew and a bunch of activists, orchestrate a daring rescue before they head back to the coast to try to stop the sonar experiments. Clunky exposition and credibility-straining twists mar the book, but Peterson's passion shines through. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Although most acclaimed as a nature writer (e.g., Living by Water), Peterson is also an increasingly strong novelist. One can hardly imagine a more heartfelt work or a more unusual love story than this one. Isabel Spinner has no problem connecting deeply with marine mammals or her friend and colleague Marian Windhorse Gray, but the men in her life, including her brother, Andrew, seem to come and go. Isabel meets Andrew's friend Marshall, but their growing attraction and empathy undergoes strange changes when Marshall has a massive heart attack and becomes the recipient of both a baboon heart and vivid memories of life on the savannah and the horrors of a primate research lab. In addition to working for a federal forensics laboratory, Isabel and Marian moonlight with a network of people who help stranded animals. A massive grounding of hundreds of dead or agonized animals, caused by navy sonar weapons testing, and a raid on the primate lab eventually draw them all into the animal rights underground. As Peterson notes in the postscript, all the technologies in Animal Heart, including xenotransplantation, are currently in use, and the U.S. Navy is actively developing "acoustic bullets" despite evidence of massive damage to marine mammals and fish. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Kiwanda Beach Watchp. 15
Chapter 2 Seal-Sittingp. 27
Chapter 3 Eavesdroppingp. 48
Chapter 4 Underwater Volcanop. 69
Chapter 5 Animal Heartp. 82
Chapter 6 The Dead Zonep. 104
Chapter 7 Homecomingp. 124
Chapter 8 Strandingp. 139
Chapter 9 Perfect Empathic Pairp. 156
Chapter 10 A Dying Artp. 174
Chapter 11 Blue Dragon Rising from the Seap. 195
Chapter 12 Deaf, at Last Listeningp. 211
Chapter 13 Aquatic Apesp. 223
Chapter 14 Room 66Xp. 242
Chapter 15 Family Cottagep. 253
Chapter 16 Silkie's Cavep. 271
Epiloguep. 283