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As a veterinarian, Helena had mercifully escorted thousands of animals to the other side. Now, having died herself, she finds that it is not so easy to move on. She is terrified that her 37 years of life were meaningless, error-ridden, and forgettable. So Helena haunts-- and is haunted by-- the life she left behind. Meanwhile, David, her shattered attorney husband, struggles with grief and the demands of caring for her houseful of damaged and beloved animals. But it is her absence from her last project, Cindy-- a chimpanzee who may unlock the mystery of communication and consciousness-- that will have the greatest impact on all of them.

When Cindy is scheduled for a research experiment that will undoubtedly take her life, David must call upon everything he has learned from Helena to save her. In the explosive courtroom drama that follows, all the threads of Helena's life entwine and tear as Helena and David confront their mistakes, grief, and loss, and discover the only way to save Cindy is to understand what it really means to be human.

353 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Neil Abramson

4 books162 followers
Neil Abramson is a partner in a Manhattan law firm, and his wife is a veterinarian. Abramson is also a past board member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an award recipient from the ASPCA for his legal work on behalf of animals, and a founding member of the New York City Bar Association Committee on Legal Issues Relating to Animals.

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5 stars
2,825 (37%)
4 stars
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3 stars
1,466 (19%)
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352 (4%)
1 star
105 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,388 reviews
Profile Image for Molly G.
238 reviews86 followers
December 31, 2020
Temple Grandin's review quote on the cover includes the sentence: "I was not able to put it down, and I read parts of it twice." Me, too; though I didn't realize she meant, you'd read a page, and as soon as you reached the bottom of it, you'd instantly go back read it again. You don't need any reminding of what was written, but you might as well enjoy the words one more time because you're still in the moment.

Very beautiful. Incredibly vivid—don't bother making the movie, just read the book and you have it running through your mind; smart, knowledgeable, and accessible, with driving momentum. I avoid the phrase "pulled at my heartstrings" because that suggests (to me) emotional manipulation: like certain soundtrack music where the goal is to make you feel something. Versus, in this book, feelings are huge and impactful, "you'll laugh, you'll cheer, you'll cry" (I did), not for emotions' own sake but because they're so rooted in content. Likewise with any philosophizing. It all comes up out of a very rich and tangible ground, in theory and experience alike.

Not to be reductive to either of them by comparing, but still can't help one of those "people who enjoyed blah would enjoy blah" sensations about this book and The Dogs of Babel. Certainly they have a lot in common regarding subject matter and themes, while the experience of reading each is quite different—don't read one for more of the same from the other; but there's an affinity, a like-mindedness for enjoyment.

Reread 7-27-11 in two days, on the planes from NJ to London to Edinburgh, and on our first day at the Salisbury Green Hotel (University of Edinburgh) in the bath from a day of walking through Holyrood Park and the historic city.

[ words ] staff pick, uninterrupted "sold" run of July-Aug 2011, book II
Staff pick blurb: "9/22 FIGE - A breathtakingly vivid, beautiful novel, combining the author’s real expertise as a trial lawyer, animal activist, and husband of a veterinarian."

Reread 10-18-12 (ASC:TMF); still cried.

Listened to audiobook 12-30-2020: Two crucial elements of the story have unfortunately not aged well:

1) representation of autism:
Clifford perpetuates a few stereotypes, former understandings of what autism even means/involves, that we've moved on from, hopefully because our understanding keeps improving. One is the suggestion that being disconnected from emotion is a definition/requirement of the diagnosis. Another is the tricksy trope of being (in this case literally) a magical savant, mainly there to serve other peoples' plots. If he were written now, I wouldn't necessarily change all of Clifford himself, but I definitely would err on the side of vagueness and mixing up the historical associations, rather than give him a real-world diagnosis.

2) knowledge of primatology:
It's a rather WONDERFUL era we've entered. For a long time, we considered humans the standard of intelligence, and tried to gauge all nonhumans against it. Now, thrillingly, we've realized that that's a flawed, biased premise, and instead are trying to think outside ourselves to try to learn DIFFERENT kinds of intelligence. (Frans de Waal has a lot of fantastic material on this.)

More sadly: such primate communication studies from Coco the gorilla on down have been fairly debunked. (Coco will always be beloved, and the humans involved meant well, but things like: using ASL without having anyone who actually uses ASL as primary communication, i.e. being deaf, on the team, because there are big differences—it's not just a direct representation of spoken English, it truly is another language. There are many other reasons why the "evidence" for Coco is not scientifically sound; and all subsequent attempts with primates were equally or more flawed, and based far more on the skewy world of publicity/publishing/funding than scientific method. Very sad, 'cause we love that story, but really does validate Jannick's worries/criticisms of J.C.'s study, and then some. Here's one source that I think is pretty approachable, exploring this: https://www.stitcher.com/show/youre-w...)

But, to give "Unsaid" its due: it was progressive for its time, remains incredibly compassionate and caring, and has glimmers of these later developments, with things like J.C. explaining that teaching human communication to a primate is for the benefit of the *humans*. Because we hold the literal keys and need to be convinced by that standard; making it explicitly about our own bias. Ugh, I can't articulate it as well as the primary sources. Check them out, it's all fascinating.

And the book still made me ugly cry at every darn beat.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,050 reviews1,835 followers
April 29, 2015
I had to DNF this once the "magical autistic little boy who can communicate psychically with animals" showed up at 13%. Ugh.

This is about a woman who is dead and wanders around haunting/observing her bereft husband, pets, and colleagues. She was a vet and this book is very heavy into the ethics of animal testing and medical treatment etc. So it was already mopey, but then once an autistic little boy sneaks into an operating room and starts shouting "Grass grass grass!" while clutching a dying dog's head, I just couldn't take it anymore. Life's too short.

Here's some examples of Neil Abramson being a drama queen:

I'd married an orphan - a child of death. In fact, death itself had introduced us.

This is said with all seriousness but I was laughing hysterically.

Or what about:

Poor Max. He does not yet know that seeking forgiveness from the dead is like looking for the wind in a field.

What the bleep does that mean!??!?! Could you vague that up for me?!
Profile Image for Michele Harrod.
513 reviews47 followers
September 18, 2011
Wasn't quite what I expected. If you've ever had to put down a beloved pet, then there is redemption here for you. If you have ever not had the courage to end an animals suffering, then you may find it in here. Hopefully, if you still use your hard earned cash to buy ANY product from a large corporation who continues to engage in animal testing, you will rethink your options. But overall, it's chick-lit for animal lovers, and I am not a fan of chick-lit. If you are, you will love it. Perfect husband loses perfect wife. Throw in some four legged lovelies to add to the drama, and a bunch of lost souls looking for the courage to open their hearts to people in the way they can for animals, and a novel that challenges the idea of animal testing - and you have it. It's definitely movie material, and I'd probably love the movie. If not for the constant interruptions I had whilst reading, I possibly would have cried my eyes out in the last few chapters. But alas, I was not afforded the privacy. Not sure it would have changed my star count either. Probably fantastic timing in light of the fact that the USA is currently considering banning the use of chimpanzees in animal testing (the last place in the world to do so). I personally stuggle with the concept of any creature being tortured by humans for any reason whatsoever. I understand the concept, as I study animal welfare. The ingrained theory is that because we 'think and reason' our lives are of more value than that of an animal. Whereas I believe that because we 'think and reason', yet still do the things we humans do, we in fact prove that we are so much less. This book most certainly honours the value of animals' lives, and for that I most certainly liked it. The day we do chose to really hear the animals' voices will be a great day indeed.
Profile Image for Jackie.
692 reviews182 followers
May 30, 2011

This book smashed into my heart like no other, and I freely admit that I sobbed uncontrollably through the last 25 pages or so. This is a story of great love, great mistakes, great grief and greater happiness.

Helena has died from breast cancer but cannot leave this world yet--her guilt holds her. She has to make amends, and she tried to do so until her dying breath, but didn't attain her goal. She must rely on her grieving husband to finish what she started, but that means that he must first find out about the horrifying mistake she made years ago, a hidden pain that has haunted her life, and now her death.

The role of animals in the lives of humans is a constantly reoccurring theme in this book--Helena was a vet and also, secretly, involved in exciting research regarding communication with animals. Her death sets into motion a series of people to people meetings as well as animal to people connections, that steamroll into the ending that left me in tears.

I don't want to tell you more--I want you to read the book. Keep the tissue box handy and just let yourself fall into the spell of this remarkable, unforgettable, stunning debut novel.
Profile Image for Jade Eby.
Author 30 books271 followers
August 7, 2011
Originally published at my blog Chasing Empty Pavements

The Good: Oh. My. Gawd. This book has some of THE most beautiful sentences ever written. The language was not just beautifully written but there were a few sentences I shivered with how much I felt while reading them. I love the simple sentiment of this sentence, "In a long relationship, there are just some night when you're more in love than others. Whatever it is, you realize that you not only love him, but you're proud to be with him." It's not a complex sentence, but it's simplicity stands out among the complexity of the scene it's in. I don't know why, I just loved seeing it there. I loved the way this book was written from Helena's perspective. It reminded me of Lovely Bones except Abramson did such a brilliant job of weaving Helena's observations, thoughts and opinions along with dialogue from the other characters. So it didn't feel like I was being talked AT or only getting a one-sided perspective. Abramson takes a lot of somber themes and makes the reader really think about them. This is the first novel I've read that made me wonder...what would it feel like for the person who died if they had to watch over us? We always focus on what the living feels like, how they should respond to grief or the mourning process. But what about the dead? Not just the broad questions of grieving and healing but how would someone who is dead feel watching their spouse pack away their clothing from the closet or witness a intimate kiss after they've moved on? Even further is to wonder how deeply the yearning for human interaction, intimacy and the senses would be. These are feelings Abramson attempts to rouse in readers during this novel.One of the biggest questions Abramson brings up is that of Animal Rights especially when it comes to primates. I have not read many novels with this as the main premise and I have to say it was very heartbreaking and eye opening.

The Bad: There is not much I can say about this novel that is negative. I genuinely thought it was a great novel. It was different than some of the other books I've raved about. It didn't have much "action" per say but it was more of a thinking novel. Sometimes I felt like Helena was narrating about things that really had no relevance to the novel and some could have been cut out. I also wish that Abramson would have fleshed out some of the characters a little more. I felt like he was just about to give us some more so that we REALLY knew them, but then never did.

Other than those few nit picky details, I enjoyed this novel immensely. Neil Abramson is a brilliant crafter of language and creates a vivid and remarkable story.

**I received this book free from the publisher through www.netgalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,966 reviews2,416 followers
September 8, 2015
One of these days I'll be able to read a sad animal boom without crying. But not this book. A real tearjerker. Very interesting concepts on communication, grief and love between the species and between ourselves.
Profile Image for Julie H..
1,396 reviews22 followers
April 9, 2011
OMG, it's taken me almost two months to slog my way through this book. In fact, I actually took breaks from this book during which I read forensic thrillers, horror stories, and books that one might not normally consider emotionally "lighter" fare. Completing this book felt as though I'd finished some sort of emotional endurance contest. And just to be clear, if the plot of this book were some sort of contest, everyone loses in the end. This reminded me of one of Shakespeare's tragedies where the stage is littered with bodies at the end as some sort of lesson for the rest of us.

A fair-minded review would begin by saying that Unsaid is an especially tough read for animal lovers, anyone who has lost (or is just missing) a spouse, and even for those of us who are particularly mindful of the unintended but no less inexcusable effects of the so-called ape language experiments of the 1960s and 1970s. A candid review would say that "tough read" is a gross understatement. In fact, upon finally surviving the completion of this book I actually had to invent a Sniglet to sum it up: Abuthos. In other words, Abramson stoops to such heavy-handed depths in trying to elicit the reader's pathos for the animals in--and beyond--this book, that he literally emotionally abuses his reader. I literally feel emotionally bludgeoned by this work. More important, I worry that the quite unintended consequence of this could be turning people off to an otherwise valid animal rights message which the story might otherwise be spreading.

I truly wanted to like this book. I'm reasonably knowledgeable about the ethics of animal research, esp. as relates to my own discipline and its sketchy history vis a vis the ape language experiments of the 1960s and 1970s. I love animals, and throughout the entire course of my life every pet we've ever had has been a rescued animal. Moreover, a former colleague who is a well-respected primatologist served as Abramson's science consultant for the book. Quite honestly, had that not been the case, I'd never have finished it. If you are one of those people who "never cries" when reading a book, send me your address. I will mail you my copy. I defy you to read this book and not bawl your eyes out. And trust me, it doesn't really make you feel any better that your rescued cat is sitting on your chest watching the tears fall as she bats at the pages. This book is a downer and I find little with which to walk away feeling enlightened in any way.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
317 reviews8 followers
September 24, 2012
"Unsaid" is one of those books that stays with you long after you've turned the last page. It leaves you questioning when a life should be considered valuable.Are human beings the only ones entitled to a peaceful, pain free existence? How far should humans be allowed to go in testing animals in order to improve a human beings life?

Helena, the narrator, is a recently deceased Veterinarian. The author leaves it to the reader to determine why Helena is able to see her husband, friends and coworkers. Is she there because things were left "unsaid" between her and her husband? perhaps. We watch as David, her husband, an attorney, struggles with her passing, made complicated with the sudden appearance of Jaycee, former coworker of Helena's.

Jaycee has been experimenting with primates language ability on a chimp named Cindy. Her grant is ended and Jaycee attempts to steal Cindy from the government facility. Needless to say this lands Jaycee in hot water. Needing an attorney, Jaycee shows up at David's doorstep, and reveals a side of Helena David was unaware of. Already reeling in grief, the newly exposed revelations lead to other questions- how much of ourselves are we expected to reveal to our spouses? Can there be secrets? David works through his anger & grief and comes to terms with the whole Helena and in doing so her ability to be present watching over him and her friends seems to fade. She is released, so to speak.

Thought provoking on many levels.

Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews64 followers
September 30, 2016
I finished this book early this morning,like around 2am. And I spent the rest of the night processing what I read. I loved this book, but it broke my heart again and again.
Helena,a veterinarian married to a successful attorney has died from metastatic breast cancer. But haunted by the belief that her life was in large part meaningless, she is unable to move on. As she drifts along,she bears witness to her husband's struggle to heal and that effect on her beloved animals.
Along the way, she revisits friends, colleagues as they too live their lives. Her last project was a chimpanzee named Cindy. Spearheaded by a friend/colleague, the project seeks to unlock the language barrier between primates and humans. And it is this along with a young boy with Aspergers' that initiates the healing process for her husband .
The debate over the ethical treatment of animals goes on and on with both sides decrying the other's actions and reactions. There is very little middle ground to be found. While biased, the story does show both sides of the issue. For myself, this continues to drive on what I spend my money. I cannot in good conscience knowingly contribute to a company that utilizes animal testing.
Having loved and lost multiple companion animals over the years,I have had to make that awful decision more than once. Never easy, I have relied on listening to my animals when they speak. Though not verbal, they speak volumes. I know this is " woo woo" for some people. For those that disagree with me,".....you have my understanding and my pity."
Loved this book. It is one of my top five of this year.

Profile Image for Susan.
Author 19 books515 followers
October 21, 2011
I had the privilege of reading a galley of this book and was asked to blurb it. I only blurb books I like...and I really liked this one. Disturbing, yes. The whole concept of human use of animals for human benefit is frightening because it exists. No amount of 'this is just a story' takes away from the fact that modern research still uses primates. That said, the main story of a man in despair at the death of his wife, being watched over by that wife, is a lovely construct and tender without falling into pathos. Definitely a good read for both romantics and animal advocates. As I said in my blurb...a remarkable book. Actually, I said a lot more, but that's what they printed on the cover, to wit: Neil Abramson’s UNSAID not only speaks of the abiding love of one human for another, but the transcendent love of humans for the creatures in their care. It leaves an indelible mark on the reader with its story of kindness and cruelty, grief and guilt, love and truth. What is said and what remains unsaid.
Profile Image for Megan Jones.
170 reviews43 followers
June 24, 2013
This book was more amazing than I expected! There were so many dimensions to this moving novel. I found myself laughing, crying and relating to this book on so many levels. The author creates authentic characters whose flaws you sympathize with, whose happiness you smile with, and whose heartbreak brought tears to my eyes even sitting on an airplane. A quote on the book jacket so accurately recommends to "read it if you share your life with an animal, but more importantly, read it if you haven't" for it so effectively illustrates the powerful effect animals can have in people's lives, especially to bring people together. And ironically I realized that's just what's happening in my life as I completed this work of art during my travel to Florida. I'm here to pick up a new addition to my "fur family" but not only am I getting the cutest pup, the pup has brought me together with her breeder, who has also become a compassionate, trusting friend. This book highlights such relationships on so many levels between both animals and people, as well as between humans themselves. Therefore I feel that a diverse audience could all connect with Abramson's writing. Lastly, not only does this book illustrate incredible relationships, it also forces the reader to ponder questions such as the meaning of life, the hardship of death, as well the depth of communication. Abramson writes, "communication is merely the transfer of information in a way that has meaning to the recipient. It doesn't need to be spoken in words or even said out loud; it just needs to mean something." And that's the core of this outstanding novel. A must-read for anyone that has ever shared a connection with another being, which I'd like to believe is everyone.u
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,466 reviews9 followers
April 9, 2013
3.5 stars. 5 stars for the subject matter and the fact that there were many very beautiful thoughts and phrases used throughout. Points deducted for some of the ways the storyline bounced back and forth, depending on where the narrator felt pulled, and things just being a bit too tidy in the end. The narrator is the ghost of David's recently deceased wife, Helena, who was a veterinarian and animal rights advocate. David is surrounded in their home by her vast collection of pets, from cats and dogs to horses and a pig, and he is struggling to make a go of life without Helena. When an old lab partner of Helena's gets arrested for trying to steal one of her subjects, a chimp who can use sign language and communicate at the level of a 4 year old, it is David who finally agrees to help her and in the process undergoes a much needed catharsis.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,175 reviews48 followers
June 18, 2018
This one is a book group read, not really my style of book. It wasn't bad, I read it quickly.

I felt this book was about loss and grief and the way people and animals deal with this in their lives. I did not pick up on the theme of the healing power of animals until I read other's comments on the book.

I liked the fact that the narrator has passed away. Books like that are interesting, giving an unusual insight.

Other than that, I don't have much more to comment on. And, no, I don't know the difference between unspoken and unsaid except perhaps in regards to animals who can't speak.
Profile Image for Elena Druță.
Author 6 books391 followers
April 14, 2022
Nerostit este o carte dură, în care urmărim trei fire narative care se întrepătrund pe alocuri, iar Helene este singura persoană care asistă la durerea fiecăruia dintre oamenii dragi și observă toate modurile în care aceasta se poate manifesta. Mi-a plăcut premisa romanului și felul în care Helene este un narator atotprezent, dar nu și omnipotent, făcând astfel cititorul să fie empatic și cu durerea ei, de dincolo de neființă. și cu durerea oamenilor la care femeiea ține.

Recenzia mea, aici.
Profile Image for Antonia.
290 reviews257 followers
July 12, 2015
I don't know if you've ever read a book that has made you change the way you look at the world, or what you see when you open your inner eyes to the world, but I think that for me this book really was a life-changing experience. A true masterpiece, with stardust and pure wisdom all over it.

I won't say anything about the plot, because I want to leave it raw and unexplored for your eyes and your hearts. Saying something about how things eventually turned out and how the characters felt or evolved won't be fair, because this book is so deep in its life-lessons, that I don't want you to have formed an opinion beforehand. I loved each and every one of the characters, even the known "evil" ones. All of them hided respectful reasons behind their actions, and I liked how they gave birth to life-changing decisions, that affected both themselves and everyone around them.
I adored Neil Abramson's writing and I dare saying that I just included him in my top 5 favourite writers of all time. The way he described emotions and thoughts throughout the book was mesmerizing. I swear, at some parts, I not only felt my heart breaking, but I also got overwhelmed by the love and hope and life that was radiating out of the pages. I cherished every word of the book. So, yes, EVERYONE must read this book, regardless of their age, their book taste, emotional stage and so on. It's magnificent. It will open your mind and heart to the bottomless world of animals' wisdom and it will make you wonder about -and wander in- the depth between humans' and animals' true communication and understanding. Like a character said somewhere in the book, there is a distinction between "unspoken" and "unsaid". Just because animals can't talk, it doesn't mean that they don't have something to say. And, often, they have something richer and purer to say than people do.
So, 5 out of 5 stars, even though this rating can't be 100% representative of the flawlessness of this book. It will make you cry, hope, smile but, above all, it will make you realize that death and grief can give birth to hope and life only if you believe that all creatures -both human and non-human- are interconnected. I'm convinced that as more and more people read books like this one, the world will become better and better, fairer. To all, not just to humans.

P.S I loved the idea of a garden dedicated to all those pets that led short lives. "On the pages within are those who came before; those who shared their lives with us all too briefly. These are the lives we honor. These are beloved angels that have returned to God." I adored this quote, I must write it and put it on my wall, it's so damn beautiful. I wish, one day, as a successful veterinarian, I'll be able to look back on all these animal lives I'll have saved, feel proud and loved, and hope, that somewhere else, these animals that I'll be forced to take their lives away, will forgive me and love me back. I'm counting on Helena's knowledge. Amen.
42 reviews
November 16, 2015
Loved this book. If you are a fan of The Art of Racing in the Rain, this is a book for you. It made me laugh and cry...and sob. I fell in love with almost all of the characters and was quickly drawn in.The story. follows David, an attorney who is trying to deal with his devastation over the loss of his wife, Helena, to breast cancer and to navigate a new and unfamiliar world without her. Add to this weight, the menagerie of animals Helena has brought into their lives through her work as a veterinarian and that David must now care for alone. Before her death, Helena had been working to rescue a chimpanzee named Cindy- trained in sign language and now scheduled to be turned over for research experiment. David becomes involved in the rescue efforts which ultimately lead to a courtroom showdown. The story is told in Helena's voice as her spirit lingers, watching over those she loves and witnessing the efforts to save Cindy.

I have reread a title only once in all my years of reading. Unsaid is one I plan to reread!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,697 reviews14.1k followers
September 16, 2011
3.5 Loved the writing, the storyline was a little repetitive at the end, but all in all a must read for pet lovers. Ethical debate on the treatment of animals, but endearing and humorous too.
Profile Image for Jennifer Probst.
Author 86 books9,802 followers
February 8, 2015
This book made such an impression on me, I was so moved I emailed the author to tell him how much I loved it. A must read for animal lovers.
Profile Image for אבי בן-תקוה.
4 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2017
As an animal lover, I really loved the story of this book. A story of mortality that will touch anyone who's ever lost a beloved member of their family (human or pet).

"The groundskeeper points to the cats and says something to Daniel in French. Daniel looks to Simon for translation.

"Philippe says that Gods countenance must have shined upon these dogs in life because now he sends his angels to watch over them in death""
Profile Image for Mark.
38 reviews2 followers
October 9, 2011
What does it really mean to "communicate"? Do animals have "rights"? Can really intelligent ones be considered conscious beings? Author Neil Abramson takes these ideas and many more as the basis for this beautiful story.
Helena Colden, a veterinarian who lives in a rural area with her lawyer husband David not all that far from New York City, is the story's narrator. I don't want to say too much, but this book is, among other things, very spiritual. The way Mr. Abramson sets up and lets the story unfold is wonderful. I know there are some readers who just don't buy into certain things, so you will have to decide for yourself.
Helena is the kind of person who completely immerses herself in the lives of animals. She is one of those who seems to relate to them easier than she does to other people. You may know people like this. YOU may be like this. David is the kind of man who is completely buried in his work to the point that he has tuned-out most of the outside world. So if you are guessing this is a story about how people grow and become better, you are right.
Neil Abramson does a marvelous job of setting up scenes and populating the story with characters that will haunt you and tear your heart out. A few scenes and passages are so profound you may stop just to take them in or even re-read. Ideas connect on many levels, and your own life experience will influence how you react to this story. If you are the no-nonsense scientific type, some of what takes place and is said will give you pause. Even the title "Unsaid" has many connections. I admit that the story line ends up being a little too contrived, but that took nothing away from it for me. If this book even seems a little interesting to you, read it. You won't be sorry.
Profile Image for Eva-Marie.
1,672 reviews128 followers
July 24, 2011
I should be punished for waiting so long to review this. I read this in early or mid June and I had no business waiting until now to write about it. The upside is it's an unforgettable book so in the end it doesn't matter.
I loved Unsaid. I think it's hands-down one of the best books I've ever read. The subject matter is important to me which may have helped my feelings along but Abramson can write.
It's rare that characters come to life for me like they did here. I could have gone on reading two or three times as long as I was. I sincerely hope the author is at work on another book on the same or an equally intense subject.
Unsaid certainly isn't for everyone. I was clued in to this when two different GR friends read it and one rated it 1 star, the other 5 stars. Both are friends whose opinions I greatly respect and both brought forth many valid points.
It's a hard one to read no doubt. I think it bumps against the lines of what some people are willing to imagine and I think it tears past the borders of others.
In the end, I think it'll get people thinking - and talking - and possibly educating themselves which is never a bad thing.
I liked this so much that while I normally wait until I happen upon a book - even one I have to-read for ages - if I hear of Abramson releasing another book I'll pre-order it immediately. I don't think I've done that to-date and I can think of two other authors I'd do that with. It's that good.
1,351 reviews10 followers
September 18, 2011
Without a doubt, the fact that one of my best friends died of cancer five days before this book arrived as one of my library orders, the reality that two other friends are probably in the end stages of their lives and the fact that I am a person who loves and appreciates animals influenced my feelings as I read UNSAID. So this tale narrated by Helena, a 37-year-old vet who has recently died really “got” me. Helena’s viewpoint allows us to watch parallel stories unfold (a technique she uses toward the end to build tension as each strand of the story races to its climax): Helena’s grieving husband; one of her former colleagues who is currently doing language research with a chimpanzee named Cindy; Cindy herself; a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome who has a special ability to understand animals; other people in the community dealing with their own issues.

Not everyone will like the multiple stories, and some may not connect with the spirituality and animal rights emphasis. And yes, everything is probably tied up too neatly at the end. For me, this week of my life, UNSAID was just what I needed to help me free some of my feelings of loss. One of my favorite characters is a judge who is wonderfully unpredictable, but I will remember Helena and her circle of friends (humans and animal) for a long time.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,882 reviews8 followers
November 12, 2014
Unsaid by Neil Abramson This was an endearing little story, and even more so if you are an animal lover.

This started out as 3 stars, but the thing that edged it up to 4 was the ease that each of the characters had about them. They all felt like they belonged there and they weren't just an instrument to propel the story. It all felt natural. The author paid attention to the emotional detail of each. And the dialog was funny in parts, which is always a plus for me, because I usually don't go for books like this. But I found this one touching. I lost a dear sweet little dog this past summer and I cried like I hadn't cried for years. So to see others so dedicated and emotionally tied to their 'furry family members' was reaffirming in some way.

The story is told from the point of view of a dead veterinarian as she looks at her mourning husband and her mourning pets, as she searches for answers. If you have ever struggled to have a pet put down, this book adds understanding to such a heart wrenching and tender moment.
Profile Image for librarianh20.
309 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2012
Complete boo-hoo festival. If animal-related tragedy makes you cry, shake your head vigorously if someone tries to offer you this book and if that doesn't work, kick them in the shins and run away.

That being said, I was touched by the book's insights into death and grieving, and I'll be pondering what it means to lose a pet for sometime to come. My cats are aging and I've started thinking a lot about what it will be like when they pass and how I will handle it.

David Colden-- NY lawyer, recent widower, reluctant animal lover
Helen Colden-- recently deceased veterinarian, animal lover, dark secret in her past about a chimp named Charlie
Jaycee--primate researcher, part of Helena's past with Charlie
Cindy--chimpanzee w/ language skills of a 4-year-old, bonded to Jaycee and Helena's doll
Sally--vet tech, David's new housekeeper, good woman
Clifford--Sally's autistic son, skilled artist, animal whisperer
Joshua--Helena's former vet partner
Skippy--little dog with the bad heart
Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,025 reviews580 followers
January 17, 2017
Well, this made me ugly cry.

ugly crying photo: crying zoeeysobbing_zpsd23c8942.gif

It was a great read with focus on issues that we don't hear about NEARLY enough (animal testing). Without giving anything away, it was not a happily ever after book by any means, but did sum things up as nice as can be while making you ugly cry. I know that description doesn't make much sense, but whatever, just read it. ;)
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
August 18, 2012
A beautifully written, heartbreaking novel. This was a difficult read for me having lost the love of my life and putting down eight cats in my lifetime, but I found I could not put the book down. A must read!
Profile Image for Lesley.
2,347 reviews
September 15, 2012
When done with this book I had to go hug my two furkids! A very strong argument on the power of our relationships with animals are. Its part love story, animal rights, legal drama, and forgiveness! At times emotional!
Profile Image for Mary  BookHounds .
1,300 reviews1,782 followers
July 24, 2011
In a way, this book should have had the word atonement in the title since the story revolves around life, death and getting things right or merely getting things on the right path in order to resolve all those ethical questions that occur in everyone. Helena has just died from cancer and returns to her home and life as a veterinarian to check up on her husband, friends and animals. She finds her lawyer-husband David overwrought and not coping very well with the loss. Helena took in strays of all sorts, from horses to cats and anything in between, so David must cope with the misfit animals while trying to go back to his high powered career. The story becomes a legal thriller as well as one of redemption when Jaycee, Helena's best friend and research partner, requests David's help in a legal issue.

Helena is just an observer and narrates her life history and the current affairs in her loved ones lives in such a profound and beautiful way. Her love of all animals has been a driving force in her life and David never really understood it until he faces the animals he must now care for. The animals are portrayed so perfectly that they just jump off the page with life. There are many little twists and turns in David's healing process and through each step he finds help in unusual ways. He hires Sally, a vet tech who is out of work, to care for the menagerie and along with Sally comes her autistic son, Clifford who really adds another dimension to the book.

The end of the book truly caught me off guard. I really wasn't expecting the book to end this way, but everything is nicely resolved (sorry, no spoilers here). Any animal lover will adore this book since it gets right to the heart of animal rights. Fans of Garth Stein and Temple Grandin will love this sweet and powerful story about the human-animal connection.
Profile Image for Rebecca Holland.
Author 13 books4 followers
June 24, 2012
Neal Abramson's Unsaid, published by Center Street, ISBN 978-1-59995-409-7, first captured my attention by the cover - it is simple, black and has a dog on the front.

And then I read that Garth Stein, one of my favorite authors, recommended the book.

Upon opening the book, and getting a whiff of the newsprint - something that only a lover of all things written would understand - I was immediately transferred to the location where this novel began. And very seldom does that happen - it has to be a well-crafted, well-written book that is formatted correctly and with a readable print.

The story that Abramson molds together, like a potter sitting at his wheel doing a face jug - a southern American folk art tradition, surrounds the life and death of Helena, and the people in her life, the animals in her life. As he allows the "jug" to "dry," the reader is captured into each story of each character, and then Abramson very expertly "fires" it up, giving the characters a way to join together, and they do, bringing their own unique "color" to the story.

But then, there is like, each one has something unfinished and unsaid in their lives - even the animals.

It is a story that captured my attention so quickly and so completely that I stayed up all night and all through the day reading it, pondering over it and seeing exactly what was left unsaid.

It was wonderful to finally see the finished product - the end.

As my 2 year old nephew would say, they "all lived happily ever after" - just not how the characters might have wished they could have lived, and most certainly, not how we the readers expected.

Bravo to Abramson - the master "potter" for putting such a fascinating face on his "face Jug" - novel.

Highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Robert Blumenthal.
800 reviews68 followers
September 23, 2014
I will start this review with full disclosure. My name is Bob, and I am an animal rights activist (or at least have profound sympathy with those who are). I am a member of PETA, the Humane Society, the American Society for the Protection of Animals, amongst others. I have always loved animals and feel their mistreatment is a travesty on our better nature. I am convinced that this helped me tremendously in liking this novel as much as I did. I was written by someone who has been active in animal rights/animal welfare circles for over two decades, having served on the Board of Directors of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Although it had a wonderfully involving plot, I think the book can be enjoyed best by people who have a deep and caring connection to animals. It basically involves the issue of whether or not chimpanzees should be treated more like human beings or like chattel when it comes to animal experimentation. You can guess what side of the issue the author is on.

I did have some problems with some of the choices that the author made in telling this story, mainly making the narrator the recently dead wife, by cancer, of the main character, a lawyer working for a high powered law firm in NYC. I, personally, found this actually detracted from the story and became a bit of a gimmick. I also had some problems with the various religious references (the last word of the book is "Amen", e.g.), and, being an atheist, it became a bit of a hindrance for me in connecting with the story. Despite this, I still found myself excited and profoundly moved by this novel.
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