From Publishers Weekly
Robinson, a former contributing editor to Ladies' Home Journal
, wryly narrates this memoir about growing up with a stern navy father who abruptly takes up breeding the then little-known gerbil in the late 1960s. Though her mother equates the creatures with rats, and her father must keep his behavior hushed in his military circles, his hobby soon becomes an obsession that he believes will not only make him an income but allow him to retire. Robinson grew up as a fish out of water navy brat in the 1970s with a strong-willed mother and younger siblings—including her sister Gail who died of cystic fibrosis at age four. But her father is the true focus; he accidentally discovers that gerbils have epileptic seizures, a discovery that leads him to become the world's largest supplier of gerbils bred for research. Robinson intersperses her compelling narrative with accounts of gerbil mayhem, managing to milk a great deal of humor and pathos out of the rodent that eventually became a common children's pet. (June)
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Robinson’s traditional military-brat upbringing is upended by her father’s sudden and inexplicable fascination with gerbils. As she details the family’s dedication to this new project, her mother’s grudging tolerance, and the machinations required to keep the gerbils secret from the navy (which would frown upon such kitschy weirdness), Robinson makes her family seem ordinary in spite of this one bit of strangeness. And her father was no rodent dilettante, as evident in her chronicling of his years of research into using gerbils in lab experiments and his careful business plan. What keeps this surprising memoir from becoming a Lucille Ball/Henry Fonda parody is, sadly, the sudden death of Robinson’s younger sister from cystic fibrosis, a disease her father hopes can be cured through scientific inquiry. Suddenly gerbil farming isn’t so silly after all. Robinson writes with humor and honesty, creating a charming story, a reminder of how all the love and care in the world may not be enough, and a moving tribute to a father who, nonetheless, never stopped trying. --Colleen Mondor