The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals ~ Becky Mandelbaum

I am a sucker for books with a rural setting. Pair that with oodles of animals and complicated character emotions and I am in!

Synopsis (via NetGalley):

“It’s late 2016 when Ariel discovers that her mother Mona’s animal sanctuary in Western Kansas has not only been the target of anti-Semitic hate crimes—but that it’s also for sale, due to hidden financial ruin. Ariel, living a new life in progressive Lawrence, and estranged from her mother for six long years, knows she has to return to her childhood home—especially since her own past may have played a role in the attack on the sanctuary. Ariel expects tension, maybe even fury, but she doesn’t anticipate that her first love, a ranch hand named Gideon, will still be working at the Bright Side.

Back in Lawrence, Ariel’s charming but hapless fiancé, Dex, grows paranoid about her sudden departure. After uncovering Mona’s address, he sets out to confront Ariel, but instead finds her grappling with the life she’s abandoned. Amid the reparations with her mother, it’s clear that Ariel is questioning the meaning of her life in Lawrence, and whether she belongs with Dex or with someone else, somewhere else.”

Review: This book had a lot of really great qualities to it, but also a few that I was not particularly fond of. Let’s start with the good stuff!

I loved Becky Mandelbaum’s ability to create complex characters and portray their confused emotions. After reading the synopsis, it is easy to understand just how confused some of these characters are feeling about their emotions. Ariel and Mona are trying to heal a broken relationship mother-daughter relationship, Dex wants to figure out who is fiancee is, and Ariel also has to figure out herself. Each of these story lines was just different enough to help the story come full circle.

I also loved the setting – Bright Side Sanctuary. It was easy to picture the work and love that went into working with the animals. The house and property were also prone to chaos and unsettling feelings, which lent itself to the personal aspect of the character’s story.

It also wasn’t just a simple place that had a few cats and dogs. The inner workings of the sanctuary in the ways that Becky described it, really helped open up my reader eyes to see what had been going on and what the roots of deeper-lying issues were.

Now to the part that I wasn’t so fond of. This book has a lot of political statements peppered throughout. If you don’t mind that stuff, you will love this book! But for me, the political statements didn’t feel completely connected with the storyline. I felt like they were almost a subplot or sidebar, but not actually enhancing anything. Usually, I read over the political stuff without even realizing it is there, but this felt very pointed and jarring for me.

Overall, a good story with deep characters who are struggling to understand themselves and one another.


This book will be hitting the shelves on October 7th from Simon and Schuster! But you can pre-order it now on Amazon!

Happy reading.

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