Those of you who enjoy bacon for breakfast may not want to read Martha Grimes’ lastest book, Dakota.  Part novel, part animal rights manifesto, the book takes up the story of Andi Oliver, a character we first met in Biting the Moon.  Andi, an ethereal young woman of about 20, remembers nothing of her life before she woke up in a Santa Fe motel room two years ago.  She makes up stories about her past and goes about her business saving the animals of the world.


In Dakota, Andi gets a job at a factory hog farm.  The graphic descriptions of conditions there and the treatment of the pigs might well put you right off your ham sandwich.  Grimes lays on the horror so thick it slows down the story.  “I get it, Martha,” I muttered.  “What happens next?”


What makes Andi interesting is that her lack of memories gives her a child-like view of the world, without the usual conceptions about the relative importance of humans.  She feels the pain of every suffering beast so keenly that her insistence on being around them seems nearly sacrificial.  In fact the whole book is so rife with symbolism it ought to weigh hundreds of pounds.  It was exhausting to read. 


To add to my sad story load for the week, today I took my daughter to see an exhibit by World Vision about AIDS in Africa. 




It’s an elaborate and creative set-up, not so much an exhibit as an experience.  You play the part of an African child and, guided by an audio narrative, walk through the child’s village and life.  There are four children, each with their own path.  Tigger went through a second time to experience a different child.


It was moving and powerful, and I highly recommend it.  The exhibit is traveling around the country.  Check the web site to see if it’s coming to your town.


Fair warning: World Vision is a Christian organization and the narrative has a strongly religious element to it.  In the story I followed, a young girl’s mother has AIDS and is very sick for months, leaving the girl and her sister alone on the streets.  Later the mom comes back in much better health.  The narrative credits her newfound Christian faith for her improvement, with only a brief mention of the anti-retroviral medication she’s taking.  (In fact, friends, the drugs work for heathens too.)  So it raised my hackles a little, but given the good being done by organizations like World Vision, I’m letting it pass.  And the exhibit is very cool.  Go see it if you get a chance.


14 thoughts on “SAD STORIES

  1. I live in pig raising country and rarely eat them because not only are they mistreated, their cramped “cafos” (confined animal feeding operations) pollute.  Yay for her for taking on the Farm Bureau.  As for World Vision, why can’t they just help without forcing their “memes” on everyone? 

  2. I’d venture that believing in a Jewish guy rising from the dead is a lot better than believing that sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS.  I’ll have to check this one out when it comes to Portland. 

  3. I hate pork anyway- it always tastes raw. I know; I’m Southern and I’m supposed to love it. But then I also hate football and fundamentalism, so I’m odd man out.Yep, 85 degrees with the same % humidity: tornado weather.Those funnels that just killed 11 folks in Arkansas,Oklahoma,and Missouri?  They are at this minute dropping down, which is highly unusual, and heading either for Alabama (us) or Tennessee (my sister).Living in the South makes one constantly wave hi to mortality, the power of mob mentality, and the search for humor amid tragedy.

  4. Much as I like Martha Grimes (I adore Foul Matter as well as the Richard Jury series) I don’t think I could stomach all the graphic details.  Plus I love BLT sandwiches…

  5. I never could eat pork after about the age of 11.  I bathed a pig that was later made into sausage.  I wonder, if all meat was sold in the supermarket in its original form and butchered in front of you, would there be more vegetarians around?  Or would we all just be numbed against it?  I doubt there were many vegetarians in the days that dinner always meant a stop by the butcher.I find it so annoying when religious charities have to put their Jesus stamp on everything they do.  They’re always so quick to claim that anything good that has happened to a person is because of their love for God, or some such nonsense, and yet they remain tight-lipped when bad things happen to everyone else who believes in God.   Why can’t they just come right out and say they have no friggin’ idea why anything happens?  If you ask me, most of those people are just indulging their smug sense of superiority and plastering God all over it so they don’t feel as rotten as they should for it.

  6. So you obviously enjoy reading? I would love to know some great books to check out. I love almost everything with text.

  7. Hmm.  I love Martha Grimes, and I could definitely stand to swear off barbecued ribs.  I wanna meet Andi too — so perhaps I’ll check both books out.Went to the WV site, but they aren’t coming close enough for me to take the grands.  At least, not yet.  But it is quite life affirming to know that at least SOME so-called “Christian” organizations have the right idea…….so thanks for the link.

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