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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Funny Farm, Laurie Zaleski: A Review

I read a few memoirs in a given year, and I was really looking forward to Funny Farm. While I wasn't familiar with Laurie Zaleski prior to this, I was super intrigued by the synopsis and cover.

From a young age, Laurie learned to care for animals. Escaping trauma and growing from hardship, Funny Farm explores Zaleski's life from troubled childhood to successful owner/operator of a large animal rescue.

I really liked this book. There never seems to be a dull moment when you're surrounded by six hundred animals, and Zaleski does a wonderful job balancing depictions of the chaotic moments with insightful commentary on the daily effort and struggles it takes to run such an expansive operation. My favorite moments were the animal anecdotes, as they served multiple purposes: comedic breaks from emotionally-taxing chapters, symbols for a larger issue explored in an upcoming chapter, or moments of beautiful simplicity, highlighting the power of love and determination.

Zaleski's writing is clear, sharp, and accessible, and I think many readers will be enthralled by her story. While I wish some of the elements of her flashbacks were developed in more detail, I especially appreciated the focus on her relationship with her mother, a building stone for her personal and professional endeavors. Many social issues are also addressed through Zaleski's journey, including abuse, gender discrimination, socioeconomic status, and power dynamics.

Both resilient and heartbreaking, Funny Farm is sure to be a winner with all audiences.

Big thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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