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Albert of Adelaide
by Howard L. Anderson
Twelve (Grand Central Publishing), $24.99, 223pp
Release Date: July 10 2012
I often read books for review just because they ended up in my pile. They may not be to my particular taste or they may just be poorly written stories. So when I tell you Albert is a gem, I want you to know how rare that is. And, this is one of those books that isn’t easy to categorize; which is a strong recommendation in my eyes.

Just about every writer knows to start the story when everything changes. This book started out a little wobbly for me because I thought the start point was much earlier in Albert’s life – the point when he ran away from the Adelaide Zoo. Albert is, you see, a platypus. We got a few spare hints later as to how and why Albert ran away and it wasn’t until I was almost done with the book when I understood why the author started where he did. It started when Albert met Jack, a pyromaniacal wombat. Albert left the zoo to find Old Australia, a place where animals lived as they used to, where Australia belonged to them, and there were no people. This was the point where Albert began to find a direction to his life.

Along the way, Albert also meets up with a couple of perpetually drunk bandicoots, an insane killer possum and his one-eared wallaby partner, and a raccoon from California. After a night of binging on alcohol and gambling, Albert and Jack have to go on the lam since Jack burned down the bar. With a posse on their tails, they split up and Albert ends up in a patch of hell called Hell. Looking for water and help, Albert runs into the crazed possum and his thieving partner. With the help of a raccoon named TJ, recently from San Francisco, who was a prisoner of the possum and wallaby, Albert escapes into Dingo territory. The dingoes are scary, and almost mythical. Both Jack and TJ had told Albert of an heroic figure named Muldoon, a former prize-winning Tasmanian Devil. Muldoon’s camp is somewhere in Dingo country and Albert wants to find him.

So, the journey is Albert’s; he left the zoo looking for the home he lost as a baby, the Old Australia that the zoo animals talked about in longing, and a purpose for being. One aspect of the story that is confusing is why or how is it that people live in Adelaide and animals are kept in zoos but once Albert hit the Outback, there were no people. Animals wear clothes and have bars and stores and homes. There is no explanation and I was just fine with that. It lent a particular charm to the story; I didn’t need to know the why, I was just along for the ride with Albert.

The writing is spare and the characterizations rather sharp. We hear a lot of Albert’s thoughts without undue introspection. Rather a lot like Australia’s Outback, I imagine. As I said earlier: a real gem. Since the publisher is a branch of Hachette, I would imagine they have pretty good distribution. Take a look for Albert of Adelaide in your local new bookstore; although they might have trouble filing it in a category. It could be as refreshing a read for you as it was for me. ~ Catherine Book

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