The Last Animal: A Novel (Hardcover)
“Whip-smart and compulsively readable. . . both a wildly entertaining adventure story and a meditation on what it means to love your children—fiercely and imperfectly.”—Oprah Daily
“Springs alive to explore questions that stump scientists and families, problems of the head and the heart.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A full-hearted portrait of sisterhood, family and the ways we process grief. Charming, wry, and original.” —People
A playful, witty, and resonant novel in which a single mother and her two teen daughters engage in a wild scientific experiment and discover themselves in the process, from the award-winning writer of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
Teenage sisters Eve and Vera never imagined their summer vacation would be spent in the Arctic, tagging along on their mother’s scientific expedition. But there’s a lot about their lives lately that hasn’t been going as planned, and truth be told, their single mother might not be so happy either.
Now in Siberia with a bunch of serious biologists, Eve and Vera are just bored enough to cause trouble. Fooling around in the permafrost, they accidentally discover a perfectly preserved, four-thousand-year-old baby mammoth, and things finally start to get interesting. The discovery sets off a surprising chain of events, leading mother and daughters to go rogue, pinging from the slopes of Siberia to the shores of Iceland to an exotic animal farm in Italy, and resulting in the birth of a creature that could change the world—or at least this family.
The Last Animal takes readers on a wild, entertaining, and refreshingly different kind of journey, one that explores the possibilities and perils of the human imagination on a changing planet, what it’s like to be a woman in a field dominated by men, and how a wondrous discovery can best be enjoyed with family. Even teenagers.
About the Author
Ramona Ausubel is the author of two novels and two story collections, among them Awayland and Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty. Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, she has been long-listed for the Story Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, NPR’s Selected Shorts, and elsewhere.
Praise for The Last Animal:
“I know it's hard to imagine, but The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel, is like a sweeter, more poignant version of ‘Jurassic Park. . .’ This shaggy elephant story is as much about surviving family grief as it is about living in a world doomed by climate change. And yet,
“Every family, after all, goes extinct eventually. The paradox that this novel confronts with such tender sympathy and humor is how to love the time we have left.” —The Washington Post
"This extraordinary story hops the globe, combining wild adventures aimed at reversing climate change with a fullhearted portrait of sisterhood, family and the ways we process grief. Charming, wry and original." —People
"Soars where so many other books about family dynamics simply coast. . . Ausubel brings deep emotional truth to her work of dramatic fiction. . . Splicing wit and wisdom, The Last Animal is a bright-eyed meditation on what animates us, biologically as well as emotionally — but most of all, familially.”—NPR
“Sustained sorrow… underpins Ramona Ausubel’s new novel, The Last Animal. . The book also manages to be a mirthful romp of chicanery and derring-do.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Whip-smart and compulsively readable. . . Surprising, funny, and poignant, The Last Animal is both a wildly entertaining adventure story and a meditation on what it means to love your children—fiercely and imperfectly—in the “Age of Extinction,” a time when their futures appear more tenuous than ever.”—Oprah Daily
"Delightful, poignant and occasionally heartbreaking."—Good Housekeeping
"Ausubel is a supernaturally gifted writer whose heart, soul, wit and intellect are evident in every wacky setting, character and plot line she weaves. Few authors can do what she does, seemingly effortlessly: spin saucy yet kind-spirited social satire while exploring a multitude of topical and archetypal subjects — all within a single work, all in sentences that sing… Forget everything you think you know about your reading tastes, sink into [Ausubel's] weird world and prepare to fall in love with a 4,000-year-old baby mammoth.”—LA Times Review
“A hairy but cuddly beast of a novel that sheds life lessons, some heartwarming, many sticky with sentiment… Ausubel’s conclusion is clear: Nurture the earth and your dreams, but don’t forget to nurture your family.”—Christian Science Monitor
"The Last Animal is a wildly plotted romp as well as a deeply felt story of family, grief, and the hope to be found in continuing to live, even under the cloud of an uncertain future."—Alta Journal
“A fanciful tale grounded in reality but reaching into the heart of a reader with relatable storytelling about the relationships between two sisters, and between mothers and daughters. . . a delight to read. . .Ausubel has found a great way to combine the complications of climate change and the wonders of the natural world with the difficulties women still face in a field dominated by men. . .The Last Animal provides laughs, chills and celebration in equal measure throughout. It is highly recommended to anyone who loves what fiction can do with its most wondrous, creative and heartfelt possibilities. Ausubel has a total winner here.”—Book Reporter
“Wondrous. . . a fantastical journey into the kind of life that may or may not be possible after death, and the equally fantastical experience of becoming a woman in a world of men. . .strikingly recognizable yet laced with magic. . .Ausubel's evocative prose, gives the novel a perpetual sense of longing.”—Shelf Awareness
“Ramona Ausubel is a master at creating distinctive young female characters… [The Last Animal is] an intense portrait of family dynamics that undergirds a speculative narrative that is just on the verge of real, and also filled with hope.”—LitHub
"Ausubel’s fourth volume of highly original fabulist fiction. . .marries an extraordinary and slightly bananas scientific adventure with a deeply felt portrait of a mother and daughters healing from terrible loss. . . .An amazing amount of humor, pizazz, wisdom, and wonder packed into a story that is essentially about processing grief."—Kirkus, STARRED review
“The Ice Age meets the Anthropocene in this gem from Ausubel. . .Ausubel is at her best when exploring the ties that bind, especially in a family flung into unprecedented circumstances. In charting the parallel worlds of grief, scientific devotion, and adolescence, Ausubel comes up with a seamless global caper that brims with compassion and makes the reader glad to be alive.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“An incredibly sharp and sweeping novel about our modern planet with an intimate emotional core. . .Balancing the breadth and complexity of our ailing ecosystems and the resonant humanity of a grieving family, Ausubel has crafted an unforgettable tale for our time.”—Chicago Review of Books
“[A] transfixing, fabulist tale centering the life-giving power of women within a scientific frame. . . a feminist Jurassic Park. The narration. . .is lush and full of wonder as a family is broken and reshaped, and the women come of age, evolve, and grapple with the limits and conflicts of biology and ambition.”—Booklist
“Ausubel’s new novel has a surprisingly winning combination of subjects. . . .The story. . .easily manages to win our hearts. . .The author’s good-natured humor and wildly imaginative plot create an incredibly appealing read.”—Center for Fiction
“I loved this book so much. Ramona Ausubel writes with such humor, but also shining intellect and vulnerability. The Last Animal shows the value of taking risks even when the heart is broken, and that sometimes risk brings with it a return to warmth. Gorgeous.”—Jenny Slate, bestselling author of Little Weirds
“I never thought I would fall in love with a wooly mammoth, but without a doubt I did. Here is an unlikely story of family and tenacity, of existence and striving to exist even if you are told you cannot. The women of this remarkable family astounded me. They are brilliant, kind, and utterly fearless. The prose is gorgeous. Each sentence pulsates with such heart and life.”—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry
“The Last Animal is pitch perfect, a phylum of every hurt and want traded between mothers and daughters. I was captivated by the spirit of this tightly-woven story. How magical to consider the world as very large and yet very small all at the same time. A tender, fascinating look into the bruised things that can lay buried inside a family.” —Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth