BOOK REVIEW: Animals on the Other Side

Animals on the Other Side

Sylvia Browne, the queen of woo-woo, is behind this children’s book that seeks to reassure young readers that their deceased pets are in a happier place. Beatific animals romp through fantasy habitats in illustrations that range from mediocre to horrendous.

Browne’s vision of heaven/the afterlife/whatever, is called “The Other Side,” and it seems a very unusual concept indeed. We are told that marvels of human engineering, such as the pyramids and the Eiffel tower, await people and animals after their mortal lives have ended. Browne’s co-author, Christopher Dufresne, also assures us that sports arenas are present in the afterlife!

Not only will Tabby and Bowser frolic among classic Roman architecture and tennis courts, but also meet mythical creatures such as unicorns and griffins! It’s almost as if the book was written by an overeager 6-year-old: “An’ there’s gonna be DINOSAURS! An’ FOOTBALL! An’ THE GRAND CANYON!”

Like the Garden of Eden, Browne’s vision of the perfect afterlife is a vegetarian one. I found this aspect especially interesting. Species who were mortal enemies on earth are seen cuddling together on the other side. As in this world, however, farmed animals are so ignored as to be invisible. Considering the sheer number of farm animals on planet Earth (there are more of them than us), and the fact that if any creature deserves an eternal reward, it is the one whose life on this planet was utterly dismal—this exclusion seems especially egregious. The only farm animals who appear in these pages are horses (who are usually viewed as pets rather than traditional livestock) and a single lamb standing with the proverbial lion. Farm animals, despite their sheer numbers, have disappeared from the landscape, our consciousness, our thoughts, and our ideas of heaven.

As someone who, growing up, was coldly informed by religious figures that animals did not have souls and did not go to heaven, I’m not going to be too harsh on anything that tells children something different. Nevertheless, my own cynicism about Sylvia Browne’s empire, as well as her cherry-picking of emotional buttons, won’t let me see this book as much more than more crass marketing.

(review originally appeared at goodreads.com)

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