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Enslaved by Ducks

Enslaved by Ducks

3.9 31
by Bob Tarte

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When Bob Tarte bought a house in rural Michigan, he was counting on a tranquil haven. Then Bob married Linda. She wanted a rabbit, which seemed, at the time, innocuous enough. But that was just the beginning. Wouldn't a parrot be cute? Linda said. Bob suddenly found himself constructing pens, buying feed, clearing duck waste, spoonfeeding at mealtime. One


When Bob Tarte bought a house in rural Michigan, he was counting on a tranquil haven. Then Bob married Linda. She wanted a rabbit, which seemed, at the time, innocuous enough. But that was just the beginning. Wouldn't a parrot be cute? Linda said. Bob suddenly found himself constructing pens, buying feed, clearing duck waste, spoonfeeding at mealtime. One day he realized he'd become a servant to a relentlessly demanding family, and a motley crew it was.

Writing as someone who's been ambushed by the way in which animals, even cranky ones, can wend their way into the heart, Bob Tarte reveals the truth of animal ownership—and who really owns whom.

Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
"For anyone who has ever opened heart and home to an animal."
The Dallas Morning News
Entertainment Weekly
"Hilarious....You may never look at Fido the same way."
Entertainment Weekly
From the Publisher
"Hilarious....You may never look at Fido the same way."
Entertainment Weekly
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
For readers who like to keep two or more books going at a time, a book like Bob Tarte's is a special treasure. His riotous good humor offers a diverting glance into "someone else's" problematic household, while his fresh prose, entertaining insights into animal and human behavior, and escalating domestic drama keep the pages turning. Enslaved by Ducks is Tarte's delectably original record of his self-conscious, reflective evolution from a carefree, urban bachelor to a devoted rural husband who becomes the increasingly subordinate caretaker of countless pets.

Tarte's charming animal anecdotes provide a cover for his lack of expertise as an opinionated, if ill-informed, world music critic who feathers out his music column with duck stories from his household menagerie. As with all good animal books, the mysterious characteristics of the "alien beings" provide insight into the human condition; and Tarte's willingness to let the reader in on the darkest hours of pet care gives his debut an emotional punch that sharpens its humor and heightens its many giddy highs. A visit to the Tartes' Michigan home, inhabited by a multiplying horde of demanding ducks, geese, turkeys, parakeets, parrots, rabbits, cats, and starlings will dumbfound and delight, before the laughter it provokes will rob you of your seat. (Winter/Spring 2004 Selection)

Publishers Weekly
Knowing little about animals, Tarte and his wife na vely acquire Binky, an impish bunny, at an Easter bunny fair, little suspecting that it will soon dominate their lives and lead to a brigade of other winged and furred beasts. After Binky, they get a canary, then Ollie, an orange-chin pocket parrot, whom they return because he flings his water-logged food all over their floor and accosts them with calls and bites. Then they buy a more docile gray-cheek parakeet, which makes the Tartes realize they miss their raucous friend Ollie, whom they retrieve. Gluttons for punishment, the Tartes acquire a gender-confused African gray parrot named Stanley Sue, followed by ducks, geese, turkeys, parrots, starlings, more rabbits and cats. Every day brings an adventure or a tragedy (Ollie escapes; a duck gets eaten by a raccoon) to their Michigan country house. With dead-on character portraits, Tarte keeps readers laughing about unreliable pet store proprietors, a duck named Hector who doesn't like water, an amorous dove named Howard, a foster-mother goose, patient veterinarians and increasingly bewildered friends. Tarte has an ordinary-Joe voice that makes each chapter a true pleasure, while revealing a sophisticated vision of animals and their relationship to humans. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tarte spent the first 38 years of his life as a city slicker and worked as a columnist for a reggae and world-music magazine. A move to the country and his wife's growing collection of indoor and outdoor animals soon changed Tarte's column into a collection of stories about the menagerie that was taking over his life. In his words: "Our animals have provided me with the only subject besides music that I've ever felt impassioned to write about." This book is Tarte's attempt to explain how his life came to be controlled by the wants and needs of bunnies, cats, and a variety of birds ranging from parrots to ducks, geese, and turkeys. With the good humor and positive outlook that can come only from having infinite patience and understanding, Tarte recounts some of his trials and tribulations, beginning with the arrival of Binky, a dwarf Dutch rabbit with destructive gnawing habits. Tarte misses the lesson on the folly of impulse buying and soon acquires a parrot named Ollie, who is so cantankerous that Tarte must return him after only three days. Not only did the author and his wife relent and reclaim Ollie but they even acquired other parrots, with equally disturbing results. This light and witty diversion is highly recommended for those who appreciate the value of good humor and a positive outlook on life.-Edell Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A cast of characters listed in the front-along with all of the veterinarians consulted-helps to keep straight the bewildering number of animals, mostly avian and each with a personality of its own, that populates this amusing book. Newly married Michiganders Bob and Linda Tarte moved to the country per her desire, and soon she talked him into acquiring a rabbit to add to their two cats. Despite the bunny's bad attitude, one animal led to another, until there were more of them than you can shake a bird perch at. Tarte was sometimes hard-pressed to name them all, since they encompassed ducks, bunnies, cats, doves, canaries, turkeys, parrots, starlings, geese, and parakeets. While teens might not want to own any of these noisy and often bad-tempered beasts, reading about their foibles-and the foibles of the people from whom they were acquired-is great fun, thanks to the author's sly sense of humor and willingness to poke good-natured fun at himself, his wife, and their menagerie. Potential pet owners who think that caring for one or two animals would be a walk in the park will find this book extremely useful reading. In fact, they might have second thoughts about a trip to the pet store. Other readers will chuckle at the situations presented, and pet owners will no doubt identify with them.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The wholly disarming story of a music reviewer’s move to the country, where he gradually, inexorably gathered about him a ragtag band of animals. "The long, smooth slide from keeping one animal to housing more than two dozen amazes me as much as the fact that I'm willing to expend energy on them," Tarte writes. He was an urban creature, ready (if ill-prepared) to take on the work of writing about reggae and world music because the chance fell in his lap. He was not so ready (though equally ill-prepared) to turn his rural Michigan residence over to a multiplying horde of insistent ducks, geese, parrots, parakeets, turkeys, cats, rabbits, and starlings. They dumbfounded him, controlled and teased him, took their share of his flesh, stole his heart. Since animals inevitably get sick, sometimes mortally, Tarte found that visits to the vet eventually necessitated visits to the psychiatrist; his mood chemistry needed as much help as his menagerie. While he keeps the tone light, peppered with dredging humor ("Pat a hunter's hound on the head, idly suggest that one of these days you'd like to bag a dog with a .22, and expect a heated discussion"), the author quietly suggests that animals are little packets of alien intelligence fully inhabiting their own world, which is worth tapping into. His furred and feathered companions took Tarte out of himself, gave him a satisfying flinch of pleasure, taught him to live within chaos, introduced him to the strange ceremonies of animal care. As well, they pulled his chain, broke his trust, ate up his time and patience, showed him a thing or two about violence, and died on him. His chronicle of those processes ties them all neatly together, and it soundslike love. "Why didn't anyone warn me?" Tarte asks about the consequences of sharing a home with animals. It’s a good thing they didn’t, or we might not have had this affecting debut.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.88(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"All of us who feel a deep emotional connection with animals will respond to this book. As Bob Tarte realizes, there is no drug or therapy as effective as an animal who loves you."
—Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep

"A beautiful, honest, hilarous, and touching book about the subtle and blatant ways animal companions take over our lives. It's impossible to read Enslaved by Ducks and not fall just a little bit in love with bob Tarte, his charming, heroic wife, Linda, and their menagerie."
—Jana Murphy, author of The Secret Lives of Dogs

Meet the Author

Bob Tarte wrote for The Beat magazine for twenty years. He has also written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Miami New Times, the Whole Earth Review, and other publications. He hosts the What Were You Thinking? podcast for petliferadio.com. He and his wife Linda live in Lowell, Michigan, and currently serve the whims of parrots, ducks, geese, parakeets, a rabbit, doves, hens, one turkey, and way too many cats.

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Enslaved by Ducks 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
thkosan More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone with ducks, parrots, bunnies and/or geese -- or city dwellers who lust after living on a bit of acreage populated with pets. Although this non-fictional story was engaging and engrossing in itself, I was constantly impressed and forced to linger over well-written turns of phrase. This guy is a talented writer, and his ability to describe a situation with color and style made this a real treat to read. I laughed, I cried, I laughed again and I cried again. What an emotional roller coaster we animal-lovers have to endure. Some people who exchew pets just can't comprehend the extreme dedication and love we animal lovers invest in our pets, and the joy we receive in return. If you are one of them, read this book. You'll understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For animal lovers and non-animal lovers...this is one hysterically funny and touching book. Bob Tarte is an amazing writer! The story of a man who falls head over heals in love with a mismatched bunch of fowl, felines, and rabbits and all of their 'hijinks'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I'd read a review that described it as laugh-out-loud funny. I laughed a few times, but it is more absorbing than amusing. It's the story of a man who never imagined himself as he is now: enslaved by ducks (among his and his wife's many other companions). As with any story about our critter friends, there are sad moments when they die, triumphant moments when they recover from seemingly hopeless conditions and injuries, and the realization that they know if we truly love them or not. The Tarte's love and respect for their animals is evident throughout, and make this book a joy to read.
-Pentabulous More than 1 year ago
If you love animals and need some laughter therapy, this is the book for you. As a pet lover, I identified with the author's predicament as his pets gradually took over his life. Ducks are not the only pets to "rule the roost" in this story. Buy the book--it's cheaper than therapy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I pick up this book and could not put it down untill it was finished!! great book All animals lovers should own.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the course of reading this book, I had to deal with the death of one of our cats, a pet I had for almost 15 years, a pet similar to Bob and Linda's Binky-she could drive us crazy. It was comforting to have this book to read, to know that I was not alone in loving an animal in all its funny and annoying forms,then seeing it through the end of its life. Honest, touching, hysterical.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rarely have ever read a book a second time, but I am just finishing this book once more, and may even read it again. I enjoyed the personal stories Bob shared. I never imagined that a book about someone else's life and animals could be so interesting and funny, even though I own many of my own animals. However, I decided to give it a try and checked it out from the library just to see what it was like. I ended up buying my own copy because I wanted to be able to loan it out to other people who might like it as well. (Also so I could read it again myself, of course!) I identified with the way he feels about his animals, and the amount of time and thought each requires. I hope he will write more stories in a future book. His humor reminds me of Dave Barry's. (I've read all of Dave's books, so I need more of Bob's or his to continue my reading pleasure--a person can only read the same book so many times, right?)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. Bob and his Wife Linda go from a normal home to a completely crazy home that felt even more normal than before! They acquire what may be an insane amount of animals. They learn some hard lessons, and gain experience. You really get to watch them grow as people. My personal experience with this book, was finding out that I'm not alone in the world! With 7 or 8 pets in my house it was a great feeling to see what happened to me happen to someone else, even to a greater extreme. I was crying, laughing, and reading it to everyone in my family. You should give this book a chance. You wont put it down! I'm a terrible writer, but trust me when I say, everyone will love this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love all his books. Very enjoyable.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellant book for the poultry and waterfowl lovers like me :)
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My niece gave me this book because I live near the same small town as the author. It turns out that I live very near the author! This is a warm and funny book, well written and entertaining!
DALE44DK More than 1 year ago
This book was incredibly bad. Choosn by my book club as the selection for July, I was the only book club member to finish the book. The rest of the embers did not want to waste their time....if only I had known!
bjsCA More than 1 year ago
Kind of cute and entertaining. The thought of all those animals in the house made me sort of cringe, though. If you liked this book I would recommend Just A Couple of Chickens by Corrinne Tippett.
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