Oth­er Peo­ple’s Pets

September 1, 2019

La La’s world stops being whole when her moth­er, who nev­er want­ed a child, aban­dons her twice. First, when La La falls through thin ice on a skat­ing trip, and again when the accu­sa­tions of unfit moth­er” feel too close to true. Left alone with her father — a lock­smith by trade, and a thief in real­i­ty — La La is denied a reg­u­lar life. She becomes her father’s accom­plice, calm­ing the watch­dog while he strips fam­i­lies of their most pre­cious belong­ings. When her father’s luck runs out and he is arrest­ed for bur­glary, every­thing La La has painstak­ing­ly built unrav­els. In her fourth year of vet­eri­nary school, she is forced to drop out, leav­ing school to pay for her father’s legal fees the only way she knows how — rob­bing homes once again. As an ani­mal empath, she ratio­nal­izes her theft by focus­ing on hous­es with pets whose mal­adies only she can sense and car­ing for them before leav­ing with the family’s valu­ables. Oth­er People’s Pets exam­ines the gap between the fam­i­lies we’re born into and those we cre­ate, and the dan­ger that hold­ing on to a trou­bled past may rob us of the future.

Discussion Questions

    Cour­tesy of R. L. Maizes

  1. Who was your favorite char­ac­ter? Why? 

  2. Who was your least favorite char­ac­ter? Why? 

  3. La La and Zev have many flaws. Were you able to care about them in spite of their flaws? Why or why not? 

  4. If you have pets, in what ways is your rela­tion­ship with them sim­i­lar to La La’s rela­tion­ship with her pets? In what ways is your rela­tion­ship with your pets different? 

  5. If you don’t have pets, did the book make you want to have them? Why or why not? 

  6. What did you learn from the book? 

  7. How did you feel about the end of the book? 

  8. What do you think about Zev’s par­ent­ing skills? In what ways is he a good par­ent? In what ways does he fall short? 

  9. How would you describe La La and Zev’s relationship? 

  10. In the book, La La thinks about what it means to observe the bib­li­cal com­mand­ment, Hon­or thy father and moth­er”? What oblig­a­tions does La La owe Zev? What oblig­a­tions does she owe Elissa? 

  11. Do you ever feel that you know what cer­tain ani­mals are feel­ing, emo­tion­al­ly or physically? 

  12. What do you think about the con­cept of an ani­mal empath? 

  13. How would you describe the author’s writ­ing style? Did you enjoy it? 

  14. Grow­ing up, did you have child­hood expe­ri­ences sim­i­lar to La La’s or Zev’s child­hood experiences? 

  15. Have you ever been treat­ed the way La La treats Clem in their relationship? 

  16. What do you think are the themes of the book? 

  17. Zev calls on God for help peri­od­i­cal­ly, but would you con­sid­er him a reli­gious man? Why or why not? 

  18. Both La La and Zev break the law at dif­fer­ent times in the book. Do you think break­ing the law is ever jus­ti­fied? When? Is it jus­ti­fied when La La and Zev do it? 

  19. Dr. Bergman could be described as La La’s men­tor. Have you ever had a men­tor? What was the expe­ri­ence like? 

  20. The book has a thread of mag­i­cal real­ism run­ning through it. Have you read oth­er books that con­tain mag­i­cal real­ism? What do you think of the technique? 

  21. Would you like to read some­thing else by this author?