... moving—if occasionally enraging ... Our Symphony with Animals is a timely and necessary book that sheds light on how far animals will go to help us, and how much better we need to treat them in return ... This deeply affecting book reveals just how important animals are to human health and happiness.
Akhtar ambitiously covers a wide range of animal issues ... She gives us story after story, each of which demonstrates that animals can break down walls we build around ourselves to protect us after traumatic experiences ... In addition to the anecdotal, Akhtar provides science that makes every presentation much more than just a story ... While the topics and examples in the book are far-reaching, Akhtar keeps things connected with the continuing flashbacks and stories of her childhood dog, Sylvester, and the abuse from her uncle. The effect is that, while she's telling us this compelling story about her young life, she's also sharing important information about animals and how they help us in many different ways. Some of it is hard to read.
From the well-documented incidents of intuitive animals aiding people with physical and emotional wounds to the buoyant camaraderie between rescued animals and their saviors, positive stories of interspecies associations abound. The flip side, however, is grim ... A word of warning about this important and illuminating work. For all the feel-good tales of animal empathy at its best, Akhtar also offers harrowing examples of extreme and graphic viciousness that will be tough going for sensitive readers.
... [Akhtar] has the scientific chops to make a strong case for animals as our co-equals, worthy of compassion and respect ... The author is living proof that the bond between humans and animals can be of mutual benefit. Her personal story gives Our Symphony with Animals easy access to the more challenging scientific material presented ... Some of the chapters are unsettling. I had to put the book down a few times while reading a section on New York City investigators who deal with animal abuse cases. And the section on factory farming is yet another indictment of a horrific industry ... Occasionally, the reader may have trouble following the book’s narrative. Sylvester the dog pops up from time to time in somewhat unexpected places, but he is usually welcome, even if we are not sure exactly how he got in. Think of him as empathy incarnate and it makes sense.
In this notable volume, neurologist Akhtar...uses personal childhood trauma to launch a thoughtful discussion of the extent of, and limits to, human empathy toward animals ... Akhtar’s book draws a sobering but hopeful picture of what has been done and what remains to be done to improve animals’ lives.