Teenage sisters Eve and Vera never imagined their summer vacation would be spent in the Arctic, tagging along on their mother's scientific expedition. But there's a lot about their lives lately that hasn't been going as planned, and truth be told, their single mother might not be so happy either. Now in Siberia with a bunch of serious biologists, Eve and Vera are just bored enough to cause trouble. Fooling around in the permafrost, they accidentally discover a perfectly preserved, four-thousand-year-old baby mammoth, and things finally start to get interesting. The discovery sets off a surprising chain of events, leading mother and daughters to go rogue, pinging from the slopes of Siberia to the shores of Iceland to an exotic animal farm in Italy, and resulting in the birth of a creature that could change the world—or at least this family.
From a taxonomic point of view, The Last Animal is a sweet, poignant descendant of Jurassic Park ... Such a strange literary creation sounds unlikely to survive in the wild, but in Ausubel’s laboratory, it springs alive to explore questions that stump scientists and families, problems of the head and of the heart ... The quirky comedy of this novel constantly pushes back against the story’s abiding gloom. The whole book is glazed with a thin layer of absurdity ... The animal is a painful reminder of the loved one they can’t bring back. Every family, after all, goes extinct eventually. The paradox that this novel confronts with such tender sympathy and humor is how to love the time we have left.
Love it I did. Devour it I did. Recommend it to everyone, I do ... Ausubel is a supernaturally gifted writer whose heart, soul, wit and intellect are evident in every wacky setting, character and plot line she weaves. Few authors can do what she does, seemingly effortlessly ... The Last Animal is many things. A mother-daughter love story. A global-warming warning. A fabulist fantasy. A sci-fi eco-scheme. A coming-of-age duet. A feminist critique of workplace misogyny. A study of grief. Even if none of these genres are your jam, I suggest you do what I do when approaching a work of Ausubel’s. Forget everything you think you know about your reading tastes, sink into her weird world and prepare to fall in love with a 4,000-year-old baby mammoth.
The Last Animal, the latest novel by Ramona Ausubel, soars where so many other books about family dynamics simply coast ... Rather than wallowing in interiorized melodrama, though, The Last Animal instantly injects Ausubel's telltale zing — in the form of an ice-bound baby mammoth and Jane's decision to go rogue on a kind of madcap ethical bender. But even more refreshing is the utter rejection of miserableness on the part of the grieving family ... The book also tackles sexism, both personal and institutional, and it does so with wryness rather than clickbait cliches ... A bright-eyed meditation on what animates us, biologically as well as emotionally — but most of all, familially.