The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets

( 11 )

Overview

Winnie Parker, mother to an angst-ridden teenage daughter and ex-wife to a successful game show host who left her for a twenty-something contestant, begins a normal day in her hum-drum existence by dropping her car off at the repair shop. After accepting what she believes is a ride to pick up her rental car, Winnie realizes too late that she's been kidnapped.

What follows is a riveting psychological game of cat and mouse set in the kidnapper's tropically heated house—kept that ...

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The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets

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Overview

Winnie Parker, mother to an angst-ridden teenage daughter and ex-wife to a successful game show host who left her for a twenty-something contestant, begins a normal day in her hum-drum existence by dropping her car off at the repair shop. After accepting what she believes is a ride to pick up her rental car, Winnie realizes too late that she's been kidnapped.

What follows is a riveting psychological game of cat and mouse set in the kidnapper's tropically heated house—kept that way for Cookie, a menacing seven-foot long Iguana headquartered in the kitchen. While desperately seeking to escape—which leads to several violent clashes with her increasingly unstable kidnapper—Winnie also tries to understand why she was taken captive. Is her kidnapper merely seeking a ransom or does he have something more sinister in mind? Does he know that Winnie's mother is an Oscar-winning actress? Or did he connect her with Jonathan, her famous ex-husband? When the truth reveals itself, Winnie is not only forced to fight for her life, but must also protect the lives of those she loves from the kidnapper's deranged master plan.

An engrossing, darkly humorous, edge-of-your-seat story, The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets explores the dynamic between kidnapper and kidnapped, bizarre reptile lore, and the absurdity of the celebrity lifestyle.

Diana Wagman is the author of the novels Bump, Spontaneous—which won the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction—and Skin Deep. She is also a contributing writer to the Los Angeles Times.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Her game show host ex-husband left her for a comely young contestant; her teenage daughter is in rebellious overdrive; and her own life unfolds as a slow succession of zeroes. Then one morning, a routine trip to an auto repair shop catapults her suddenly into a life-or-death situation involving a chronically unstable kidnapper, an oversized prized iguana, and her own newfound resourcefulness. The breakthrough novel of a talented young writer.

The New York Times Book Review - Lydia Millet
…Wagman's best to date—a quick, engaging story, half thriller and half wry domestic drama.
Publishers Weekly
A kidnapper in over his head, the naïve 16-year-old Lacy, her deflated mother and dim but sweet father, and a seven-foot iguana populate this tar-black comedy set in Los Angeles. Lacy’s mom, Winnie, is kidnapped by Oren, a reptile enthusiast and carpet salesman conducting a delusional online relationship with Lacy, who has made up stories about an abusive mother to impress Oren. Wagman adroitly builds suspense on several fronts and adds the bizarre comic twist of a kidnapper who is an amateur herpetologist. To accommodate his reptilian “best friend,” Oren keeps his house tropically overheated and has turned the kitchen into a pen. The narrative shifts between Winnie’s captivity and a day in the life of Lacy, who gets booted from class and ends up with Buster, actual boyfriend material, unlike Oren. Wagman has some twists up her sleeve, giving her time to explore Oren’s frighteningly childlike mind in the deliberate runup to a gripping, bloody, and horrifying denouement. Wagman’s talent for imagery is well served by the subject matter, and the story is perfectly paced, with humorous breaks in the tension. A PEN Center USA Award winner (for Spontaneous), Wagman has crafted an unusual thriller for psychological crime devotees and fans of the peculiar. Agent: Terra Chalberg, Chalberg & Sussman. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets tilts on Winnie’s strength. In her, Wagman has constructed a magnetic figure who is easy to root for…The book also benefits from breathless pace and a dialogue-heavy structure that hints at Wagman’s screenwriting experience and keeps the pages turning.”–Los Angeles Times

“…tense and fast-paced.”–Wall Street Journal

“Wagman’s talent for imagery is well served by the subject matter, and the story is perfectly paced, with humorous breaks in the tension. A PEN Center USA Award winner (for Spontaneous), Wagman has crafted an unusual thriller for psychological crime devotees and fans of the peculiar.”–Publishers Weekly

“Told from multiple points of view—everybody but the iguana is represented—the novel is a darkly humorous and occasionally violent exercise in suspense, and a dramatic exposition of the Stockholm syndrome. Wagman does a nice job of lending her characters psychological depth and creating a fast-paced, readable plot.”–Booklist

“Wagman’s (Bump; Spontaneous; Skin Deep) fourth novel shines is in its complex character development. She gives readers an in-depth, realistic look at the psychological factors motivating her characters, from the shallowness of the celebrities to the insecurities of the teenagers.”–Library Journal

“Wagman has crafted a dark, funny and sensitive thriller that might be the first of its kind: the Oedipal abduction tale.”–Book Page

“Dark, absurd and hysterically funny.”–LA Magazine

Library Journal
Winnie Parker, daughter of an Oscar-winning actress and ex-wife of a famous game show host, is stuck in her everyday life of caring for her increasingly rebellious teenage daughter and being a normal person in vanity-driven, celebrity-ridden Los Angeles; that is, until she's kidnapped while waiting for a rental-car pickup after dropping off her car at the repair shop. Her captor takes Winnie to his small, overheated house, where she meets his best friend: a seven-foot iguana named Cookie. What follows is a series of escape attempts, injuries, and revelations, for both Winnie and her kidnapper, as each is confronted with the true reason behind her abduction. VERDICT While the plotline is rather predictable, where Wagman's (Bump; Spontaneous; Skin Deep) fourth novel shines is in its complex character development. She gives readers an in-depth, realistic look at the psychological factors motivating her characters, from the shallowness of the celebrities to the insecurities of the teenagers. Not a novel for readers who want surprising plot twists, but for those who enjoy solid writing and personal insight, this is a perfect fit. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/12.]—Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes slow-moving but evocative study in the oddball psychology--or better, psychologies--that is as much a Southern California hallmark as sun and surf. Winnie Parker, her first name suggestive of victory, is a classic casualty: her husband, a TV celebrity, has dumped her for a young woman with perfect breasts ("Lacy said Jessica's boobs were fake, but Winnie thought they were just fresh and unused"), and now she's left to cope with the harrowing hells of raising a teenage daughter single-handedly. Lacy, the rebellious daughter, is experimenting with things Winnie would prefer her to stay away from. From nearby, someone is watching all this, biding his time like a coiled rattlesnake until striking--in this instance, by kidnapping Winnie for reasons that become darker as the story unfolds. Wagman (Spontaneous, 2000, etc.), a screenwriter and novelist, is perfectly at home along the tortuous freeways and hidden arroyos of L.A.; a bonus of her insightful character study is a tour of the strange world of reptile trading, with the villain of the piece keeping his house jungly hot for the benefit of an iguana and another very bad person who "masqueraded as a photographer" stripping the wild of skinks and chameleons, snakes and salamanders. The bad guys are as redneck as the protagonist of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief but with nowhere near the manners, and it's Winnie's challenge to keep up with and stay ahead of them while remaining unraped and unkilled. In the end, what unfolds is a perfect plan gone awry--though, dreamed up by stupid people, the plan is of course nowhere near perfect, and therefore it goes just as sideways as it was foreordained to do. The atmosphere is as dense as the steamy, iguana-rich jungle of Oren's dreams, with Wagman's pacing sometimes slowing to a crawl, whereupon the impatient reader will have to resist the urge to jump ahead and get on with it. The opportunities for cliché are endless, but Wagman avoids most of them. Matters of timing aside, a satisfying glimpse into a herpetological demimonde--and the weird households of sunny SoCal.
New York Times Book Review
...a quick, engaging story, half thriller, and half wry domestic drama...[Wagman's] books have the conversational rhythm and somewhat self-conscious quirks of certain slice-of-life Hollywood films whose ensemble casts may feature, say, Julianne More; they're entertaining and sympathetic, but it's their glimmers of darkness that are their strong suit.
Lydia Millet
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935439646
  • Publisher: Ig Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 811,764
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Diana Wagman is the author of three novels and numerous short stories, essays and reviews. Her second novel, Spontaneous, won the 2001 USA PEN West Award for Fiction. She is also a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

    I finished CARE AND FEEDING three weeks ago, and it has stuck wi

    I finished CARE AND FEEDING three weeks ago, and it has stuck with me since. I still find myself thinking back on it.

    What engaged me most about the book was how terrifyingly plausible it was. The protagonist’s first mistake is completely feasible, and her predicament thereafter utterly desperate. I found myself looking for ways Winnie could escape her situation and at other times bemoaning attempts she made to free herself. The antagonist of the story was at once harmless and capable of anything. Oren is dangerous because the author has constructed circumstances around him that are simple, even ordinary, and then demonstrated how truly inescapable this environment could seem to anyone who happened upon it.

    At Wagman’s hand, the presumptions I had made based on the synopsis alone were quickly called into question, then rendered improbable, and finally reduced to an unlikely and nervous hope, all but discarded.

    If her handling of the story itself is not enough to recommend this book, I would also like to applaud the author for her character development. For some readers, it might be enough to have an obvious good guy, an obvious bad guy, and a suspenseful plot for them to run through. Fortunes have been made on exactly that. In CARE AND FEEDING, Wagman also gives us beautifully drawn characters (four or five of them, but especially the protagonist and antagonist) who are at all times authentic. Individually, they rationalize their imperfections and struggle to be better people and act with purpose. Together, they clash over very different goals and navigate each other like landmines. All of the characters showcased here are in their own way exotic and in need of special handling if you take the time to understand how.

    I’ve spent longer reading more well-known fiction that doesn’t cross my mind again until I’m thinning out my bookshelf months later and remember I read it. This is not that book. I immediately selected another of Wagman’s books to read next, and I ordered it in hardcover.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    Not sure this is a good read for animal lovers.

    This book was probably more than I wanted to know about exotic pets & personalities that are attracted to these animals. Although I finished the book it came across as too gruesome for my taste.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2012

    Highly recommend this book!!

    Loved this book! I read it in 2 days. I could not put this book down and I was sad when it was over.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Very unusual!

    This is unlike any book I've ever read. Strange, but entertaining!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Keeps you reading

    Kidnap victim perspective with a twist, a few laughs in between.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2014

    Sometimes it's nice to read a book that is pure entertainment, n

    Sometimes it's nice to read a book that is pure entertainment, nothing to quote or analyze, just a quick and entertaining read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2013

    A sad strange and wondertul read

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Time Filler

    This book was just ok. I did not find it funny as some have said. No surprises highly predictable. Felt like the authors first attempt.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

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