cover image Other People’s Pets

Other People’s Pets

R.L. Maizes. Celadon, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-30413-1

Maizes’s quirky debut novel (after the collection We Love Anderson Cooper) traces the belated coming of age of La La, a 20-something veterinary student whose empathy toward animals doesn’t quite extend to her human counterparts. La La has been able to feel intensely what the animals around her experience ever since a mysterious black dog rescued her from drowning when she was eight. La La has had good reason to distrust people: her mother took off shortly after the near-drowning, and then her locksmith father, Zev, took her out of school and began training her to assist him in home burglaries, which she did until she was a teenager. When Zev is arrested in the present, she returns to burglary to raise money to pay his lawyer, justifying the crimes to herself by choosing houses where she senses pets are in trouble—until Zev wiggles his way out of house arrest and La La, who has dropped out of veterinary school, notices that her life is falling apart and resolves to form connections with humans. Despite the novel’s farfetched premise, Maizes keeps the narrative anchored in reality, with believable details about the mechanics of a burglar’s life and a large cast of well-rounded characters. This is a beguiling twist on the familiar formula of breaking unhealthy bonds with the past. (July)