A small-town veterinarian is faced with the ultimate dilemma when her father contracts terminal cancer and insists she euthanize him. The abusive, alcoholic father figures his daughter has the tools and the knowhow to end his life, so why can’t she do for him what she does for animals in similar circumstances? The daughter, who believes life in any form is precious, euthanizes animals in her care only after all known remedies or treatments have been exhausted, describing the procedure as “always a gut wrenching experience.”
Fearful whenever she is around her father, even hating him at times, and lacking in self confidence after a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse, the young veterinarian finds herself torn between letting him suffer and committing a crime that could potentially send her to prison. The reader has to wait until the end of the story to learn whether she obeys her father one last time.
Although the “does she or doesn’t she” question keeps the reader turning pages, Brute Heart contains many warm and humorous segments involving the daughter’s three best friends, family pets, and the animals she treats as part of her profession. Readers will be amused by the antics of a dog named Sonofabitch, Cleo the rabbit, a Black Angus bull that falls out of a horse trailer, and a cat named Dead. An unusual blend of James Herriot’s delightful tales and some of the darker elements in Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Daddy,” this novel will be enjoyed by animal lovers as well as fans of hardship to recovery stories and family dramas.