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.
The New York Times Book Review - Lydia Millet
…Wagman's best to datea quick, engaging story, half thriller and half wry domestic drama.
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 vieweverybody but the iguana is representedthe 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
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
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.