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The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  571 ratings  ·  227 reviews
From the winner of the 2016 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction comes a tender and funny debut novel, set over one emotionally charged weekend at an animal sanctuary in western Kansas, where maternal, romantic, and community bonds are tested in the wake of an estranged daughter’s homecoming.

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals is in trouble.

It’s late 2016 when Arie
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Simon & Schuster
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Mark Cofta The dogs eat "kibble" and the cats eat donated cat food, so it's not strictly vegan. Another reader says there is "lots of animal neglect," but I don'…moreThe dogs eat "kibble" and the cats eat donated cat food, so it's not strictly vegan. Another reader says there is "lots of animal neglect," but I don't agree. The sanctuary's circumstances are difficult when Mona and Gideon run it by themselves, but they do not neglect the animals, although more laborers and resources would help them do better. (less)

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  571 ratings  ·  227 reviews

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Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It took me about two pages to bond with Mona. She loves animals and hates Trump. She is my kinda gal. Mona runs the Brightside Animal Sanctuary in a small town in western Kansas. She’s recently been hit by a hate crime - the burning of her barn and graffiti on the walls of other buildings. She’s been estranged from her daughter, Ariel, for six years. But when Ariel learns of the hate crimes and that Mona has put the sanctuary up for sale, she returns home.
The book made me realize my east coast
Theresa Alan
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you’re a Trump supporter, you’ll hate this book. I loved this book.

It is set after Trump is elected but before he takes office. Ariel left her small town in Kansas for the relatively big town of Lawrence, KS, to attend college. She left her mother with such a rift between them, they haven’t spoken for six years. But when Ariel hears that the animal sanctuary Mona has nurtured for years was the victim of a hate crime and was already up for sale, she decides to leave her fiancé behind for a bit
Becky Mandelbaum
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I can honestly say I've read this book more times than any other book I've ever read, and it still held my interest. Dogs! Love! Kansas! Many subconsciously generated references to cake, candy, and cookies! What more could you possibly want? ...more
Donna Davis
Becky Mandelbaum is the real deal. In 2016 she published a short story collection, Bad Kansas, which I read and loved. And so when I found this debut novel on Net Galley, I leapt at the chance to read and review it. Big thanks to Net Galley, and to Simon and Schuster. This book will be available to the public August 4, 2020.

Ariel and her mother, Mona have been estranged for six years. But when she finds a news item about her mother’s sanctuary having been torched, Ariel knows it’s time to go ho
I can’t go wrong with a book about an animal sanctuary, can I? Apparently, I can. Ariel grew up on a farm sanctuary in Kansas. Her father left. She left, too, and has now returned after 6 years. I didn’t find any of the characters likable, and the book started out with talking about the 2016 election. I really try to avoid anything about “he-who-must-not-be-named,” so I wasn’t happy to have to read about his supporters when I’m supposed to be reading for pleasure. Thanks to the publisher and to ...more
Lynne Lambdin
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I’m pretty much a sucker for animals. But absolutely will avoid novels where animals play such a heavy role. As you all know, animal deaths hit harder. You have to mentally be up for uncontrollable ugly crying on the couch over an animal that never existed. Yet it happens every damn time. So, you can see why I was apprehensive. Fortunately, still interested. Send request!

Upon approval, I knew exactly what I could expect. We’ve seen shows, heard firsthand stories, and know a few novels where a fa
Jennifer Coffey
Mar 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF page 10. I hate reading books with politically charged content. I don’t care what side it’s on, it makes me uncomfortable.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
I wanted to love this book. Really love it. It could have been just half way good and I would have given it a good review, recommended it for Indie Next and showered it on Edelweiss with glowing remarks. How is this book getting such rave reviews? Especially from animal lovers? This sanctuary is anything but bright. Do not read this if you are an animal lover! The problem is the constant inaccurate stereotyping throughout the entire book.
Tiffany PSquared
What actually happened here?

Familiar premise: "You can never go home again". A young woman decides to return home after a long, unexplained absence to help her mother with her struggling animal sanctuary. And once you know that, you pretty much know what happens in this book. And I'm not even exaggerating.

I'm reading, reading, problems are mounting, situations are coming to a head, and then boom! ... "Acknowledgements". Seriously?! What about the 100 strings that are left flapping in the wind? L
Shannon Rochester
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you, NetGalley and Simon Schuster for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for my honest review.

The cover is what initially drew me to this book because it is so pretty by itself but when I read the title, I knew I would have to request this one. :) And I am going to say that this was a book that was 100% back and forth for me. At times, I thought it was going to be 5 stars and at other times, it was all the way down to two stars. In fact, until the last ten pages, it was going to
Karen M
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, first-reads, fiction
This book. This book. I read this book while snuggled up in bed, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I wrapped this book around me like a comforter. I loved it.

First of all, I am an animal person which is why I was drawn to this book but it isn’t just the dogs and cats and horses, it’s also the human animals that drew me in. Relationships are complicated and complex and awful and wonderful and that’s really what this book is about.

Ariel decides to return home after six years of h
Anna Hurst
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. I've been struggling to stay engrossed in a novel lately and this story had me completely absorbed from start to finish. The first few chapters help lay the political landscape -- things are tense. It shouldn't feel comfortable. Setting that scene allows us to better understand the characters and their respective actions, reactions, and interactions. I love Becky's sense of humor and her attention to detail. One sentence will make you laugh out loud and the next will have you ...more
Jan Williamson
I found the mother and daughter almost equally unlikable. The condition of the "sanctuary" was appalling with inadequate vet care because Mona couldn't afford it. No. Too many stereotypes, and anger issues that were left unresolved. I really don't see how this is getting such a good rating. ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals // by Becky Mandelbaum

"It was one thing to talk about forgiveness, but it was another to forgive with the body, with the bones and skin and blood. It was something the animals understood instinctively, that the deepest emotions could not be translated into language, for they existed in the body and not the mind."

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals is in trouble - not only is it up for sale but it was also victim to an anti-semitic attack orchestrated by Ar
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals by Becky Mandelbaum is a big emotional journey. I loved the idea of the sanctuary and hoped for both Mona the mother who ran it and her daughter who ran away from it.

I could understand both of them. Mona had a bad childhood and realized that she could get unconditional love from animals. She could relate to them with love and patience and could never harm any animal. But the job of taking care of the dogs, cats , horses and other animals was too much for on
Ingmar Weyland
Sep 06, 2020 rated it did not like it

From first sentence: "It was midnight in Kansas, and the bigots was were awake" (so powerful! Surely it take someday own rightful place among such prominent phrase as “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” or “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”) till the last:
“So why did we just do that?”
“Because” Mona said. “We resisting.”
“You mean stealing?”
“I said resisting, and that's what I meant.”

which was actually not final,
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaway-wins
What did I just read? I'll start by saying thank to you Simon and Schuster and Goodreads for a free arc copy of this book.

Two stars for the beautiful writing, very clear organization, easy to follow changing narratives, and stunning analogies. Aside from that, I have nothing else good to say. It's like instead of posting a Trump-hating meme on Facebook like everyone else, the author decided to write a whole novel to explore her home state and to virtue-signal as loud as she can that she doesn't
Tanya E
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Ok, how can I not love a book about a pet rescue? How is that possible?

The main reason is that the two main characters were not likable. At least for me. The secondary characters were great, though. I would probably like to have read stories about them.

The secondary reason, how are animals not the main part of the story? These were such a small part of the book. And when mentioned, they were being mis-treated by the main characters or were living in filthy conditions, because the main character
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of reading this book recently, and I'm recommending it to all of my friends. The author has an amazing ability to capture many different kinds of love--for humans, animals, and the land--and her prose is the best kind of funny, warm, and insightful. I was fully invested in these characters and couldn't stop reading. I would follow this writer anywhere! ...more
Rating: 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars

This is Becky Mandelbaum’s first full-length novel. The author is from Kansas, and her knowledge of the book’s setting was refreshingly authentic. Fair warning for those who are not interested in encountering politics in their leisure reading, this book contains political discussion and views from the 2016 election. It did not bother me, but I think that it might not be some reader’s cup of tea.

This story about reclaiming an estranged mother-daughter relati
Glenna Pritchett
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
** Thank you, NetGalley and Simon Schuster, for providing me with an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. **

Such a sweet story of love for animals, family, hurt, and forgiveness! I was drawn into Mona and Ariel’s story so deeply that I was moved to tears a couple of times. It’s a feel-good story, one that is ideal to put into the reading pile between darker books – a refreshing palate-cleanser, if you will.

I highlighted a number of lovely passages that I would love
Jessica (BlogEared Books)
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-want
4 Stars.

Thank you to #netgalley #beckymandelbaum and #simonandschuster for the complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed this book and it actually spoke to me on a lot of levels. I grew up an only child with a single mom who loved(s) animals. To the point where I too questioned if my mother loved the animals more than I and the older I got, I loved animals but also resented them a little. Just as Ariel escaped to college and a different life- I did the same. The only big dif
Apr 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
The writing in this book is adequate, but flawed - in places it lapses into cuteness, and tries way to hard to be more than it ever manages to be. The main characters - mother and daughter - are unlikeable, selfish, and not fully developed. There is a heavy-handed thread of politics which serves only to highlight the author’s feelings about the current political climate and adds nothing to the story or to a deeper understanding of the characters or their motivations. Disappointing at best.
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
**I received this ARC copy from Simon and Schuster as a Goodreads giveaway winner and am offering my honest review**

To start - this would actually be a 3.5 for me but Goodreads doesn’t do half stars so here we are.

That being said - this book was lovely. It was warm and sentimental and sort of felt like a Hallmark movie in book form in the best way. The characters were well written, human and flawed, which I really enjoyed. I like characters that are real, that feel like someone you could know.
Addie BookCrazyBlogger
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-s
Mona is the proprietor of the Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals in small-town Kansas, where both her liberal views and general messy composure has generally been gossiped about but no real damage has been done. This changes the day after Trump is elected president: a day in which half the country was in mourning for what was lost and the other half ready to bring in an era of destruction across America. Mona’s barn is burned down and with financial difficulties looming, Mona is looking at having ...more
Susan Peterson
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Poignant story about forgiveness, family, and coming home.
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it

I picked this book up because I’m a supporter of animals sanctuaries, but I fell in love with it because of the beautiful story of family, friendship, and navigating life as an outsider in your own home.

This book was wonderfully written, and I especially appreciate the way non-human animals are spoken about. It isn’t often that a book treats them with such respect and thoughtfulness.

Plus, being from KC made reading about Kansas even that more interesting.
Good Book Fairy
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals was a gem of a book. This author has created a relatable and compelling story about human nature, animal behavior, guilt, second chances and our relationships with animals of all kinds. When a reader asks for something fresh or different, I’ll point them in the direction of this book.

The heart of the story is about a mother and daughter, each trying to be themselves and fill the voids in each of their own lives. These two women were magnificently drawn an
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Thanks to Becky Mandelbaum and Netgalley for providing me with a digital advance copy of this novel. This is a solid debut novel and it succeeds in many ways. Mandelbaum’s writing is quite good. I would recommend this novel to fans of literary fiction and especially to animal lovers. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

While I enjoyed this novel, a couple of things kept me from loving it. First, I thought the political angle was a bit too heavy-handed (and I say that as someone
Kate Lawrence
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was a pleasure to read about characters who care about animals, and who work hard, despite setbacks, to maintain an animal sanctuary. Thankfully, they "get it" that meat comes from slaughtered animals, and so eat only vegetarian meals there. We meet quite a few of the nonhuman residents as well.
The story examines difficulties in family and romantic relationships and how long-established dysfunctional habits can, with attention and perseverance, be addressed and improved. These are people tha
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Becky Mandelbaum is the author of THE BRIGHT SIDE SANCTUARY FOR ANIMALS, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster on August 4, 2020. She is also the author of BAD KANSAS, which received the 2016 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Originally from Kansas, she currently lives in Washington State.

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