As its title promises, Laurie Zaleski’s memoir about how she came to found and run a large animal rescue farm in southern New Jersey is funny. It’s also moving, a big-hearted twin narrative of animal and human resilience. Zaleski alternates the stories of some of the Funny Farm’s most colorful animal characters with her own family’s turbulent history and escape from domestic violence ... Funny Farm’s story makes an enjoyable read for animal lovers and anyone interested in a true story of a generous and unconventional life.
I was trying to explain the gist of Laurie Zaleski's memoir, Funny Farm, to my husband the other day, and as I spoke I realized that I was making it sound dire ... But wait! This book is charming, funny, inspiring and hugely entertaining ... Zaleski's memoir hops around in time from childhood to young womanhood to the present, which keeps the dire stuff manageable — we read about the sociopathic dad but only in small bits ... Annie and Laurie both have a lot of grit, chutzpah and energy, and this book is an ebullient and often funny read. Yes, it covers tough ground, but the women's pluck more than makes up for the sadness. That, and, of course, all those wonderful animals.
Readers will be inspired to visit virtually (or maybe even in person!) the animals they read about, like Emily the emu and Cowboy the goat. Zaleski’s animal stories are immensely relatable and often told with the mix of empathy, outrage, humor, and steady resolve that is familiar to seasoned animal rescuers. Readers may also feel a special connection with Annie and her story of courage and unconditional love.
The author expertly balances humor and vulnerability while sharing the details of her harrowing childhood, making the book feel like a conversation between friends. Although the interspersed anecdotes about the Funny Farm’s most famous rescued animals provide welcome moments of levity, they sometimes lack a connection to the main story. On the whole, however, the book, both heartwarming and heartbreaking, is an enjoyable read ... An affirming memoir about surviving domestic violence with the help of furred and feathered friends.