Funny Farm

My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals

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Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 08 Feb 2022


An inspiring and moving memoir of the author's turbulent life with 600 rescue animals.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood, Laurie was determined to make the dream come true. Thirty years later as a successful businesswoman, she did it, buying a 15-acre farm deep in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She was planning to relocate Annie and her caravan of ragtag rescues—horses and goats, dogs and cats, chickens and pigs—when Annie died, just two weeks before moving day. In her heartbreak, Laurie resolved to make her mother's dream her own. In 2001, she established the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie’s mission to save abused and neglected animals.

Funny Farm is Laurie’s story: of promises kept, dreams fulfilled, and animals lost and found. It’s the story of Annie McNulty, who fled a nightmarish marriage with few skills, no money and no resources, dragging three kids behind her, and accumulating hundreds of cast-off animals on the way. And lastly, it's the story of the brave, incredible, and adorable animals that were rescued. Although there are some sad parts (as life always is), there are lots of laughs.

An inspiring and moving memoir of the author's turbulent life with 600 rescue animals.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood...

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Featured Reviews

This was the perfect book to start my new year. Full of hope, kindness, humor, and compassion, Funny Farm was impossible to put down. I will continue to recommend this book to all animal-lovers who are looking for a motivational non-fiction read. I am looking forward to learning more about the Funny Farm and supporting Laurie Zaleski in making the world better for both animals and humans. Highly recommend this one! Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to read a digital ARC. This is one I will definitely be purchasing to keep on my bookshelf once released!

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This is one of those books I want to hug. Laura runs a farm for unwanted animals in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She is actually doing the thing that so many of us wish we could do, but we’ve managed to make enough excuses to keep ourselves out of the situation. Laura really had no choice. With her upbringing, it makes perfect sense, and it makes her the perfect caregiver for over 600 happy campers, animals who need a home.
Laura’s story is beautifully told. At times we’re reflecting on her upbringing. This alone explains a lot about where Laura is now. At times we’re enjoying stories about her adopted animals; some happy, some hilarious, and some very sad.
The end result is this beautifully written memoir. Laura clearly explains what makes her tick, and we love her for it. If I’m ever in her part of the country, I'm definitely paying a day-long visit to The Funny Farm Animal Rescue.
Sincere thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is February 22, 2022.

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Very good read! Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book!

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I like this book and the casual, conversational style that it is written in. The author alternates between her life story and difficult childhood and tales of the varied rescue animals that she and her mother have cared for. It all started with her mother’s love of animals, and taking in a stray or two, until it grew to a still thriving rescue of over 600 animals. No creature is excluded as this rescue has farm animals, wild animals, pets, birds and more. Their sometimes tragic and sometimes funny stories are interspersed within her personal memoirs, all coming together in the most interesting way. I highly recommend this book to animal lovers specifically, and to everyone in general. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance read copy.

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What a romp! And by that, I don’t mean to imply that it’s all sweetness and light. This is a well written memoir describing a strong, creative matriarch and her determined children who overcame serious hardships to build their own fulfilling lives.

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What a heart warming memoir. I felt Lauri's pains thru her story.
I have volunteered an numerous animal shelters and see the pain, heartbreak and despair in these animals.
And I also witnessed the happy, hopeful signs when they are adopted.
This is one I will recommend to many of my friends and family.

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Part memoir, part tribute to her inspirational mother, Zaleski also includes many anecdotes about some of the residents of her animal rescue, named the Funny Farm. She relates her childhood and the build-up to the current 15-acre property that currently homes hundreds of rescue animals - along with Laurie herself. It's a riveting read - the type of nonfiction that reads with the flow of fiction. It's funny, but also moving, emotional and definitely tear-inducing. Overall, despite the tears, it is an uplifting read. And I am sure that the finished book will include some photos - though with the help of Google, I was able to pull plenty along the way. I had never heard of this New Jersey rescue organization until I was invited to read this one and I am so glad that I did! It's well-written and a good balance between the author's life, her rescue's mission and the residents. If I am ever in the area, I definitely plan on visiting!

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Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley. My review opinion is my own. I absolutely loved this story of empowerment, survival and love of animals. This is a wonderful read and very inspiring .

Laurie Zaleski runs an animal rescue in New Jersey called Funny Farm. Her mom Annie was her inspiration when she started the rescue but sadly passed away soon after. Laurie is a very inspiring person as she gathered volunteers and family to help her save animals and run her rescue . Now she has saved over 600 animals and birds . She runs a successful rescue non profit. She writes of her youth, what experiences drove her to save animals as her passion and how she loved her Mother who framed her upbringing with great strength and independence while raising three children amid difficulties. Laurie has shared so much of herself and her family her that it is quite touching and very profound reading . Her love of animals is her dedicated passion and I loved reading about those lives she saved and the unrelenting passion she has for all animals.

I loved this book and highly recommend it for all who love animals and stories of inspiring women. Very well done to the author !

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I wasn’t sure what, exactly, I was getting with “Funny Farm” by Laurie Zaleski. From the description I guessed it might be like an updated James Herriot type of book - little stories about animals on a farm. But the description also mentioned a tribute to Laurie’s mother, Annie McNulty who’d escaped a bad marriage and managed to survive with little while raising three kids, taking whatever jobs she could, and taking care of animals on her own. So - maybe a combination of “The Glass Castle” (Jeannette Walls) and James Herriot? My summary is “yes, but not quite.” Ms. Zaleski writes in a very direct manner - she’s to the point, no sugar coating, but also not writing a book of vengeance - so in that sense it did remind me of Jeanette Walls’s “The Glass Castle,” where you have to wonder (at times) how both families survived the hardships they faced. There are James Herriot-esque stories about the animals, but, again, Ms. Zaleski doesn’t sugar-coat things - animals die in this book, animals also have amusing things happen to them, animals are also saved and allowed to live rather good long lives. If you want a light happy story, please choose another book - the cover makes this look like a light book, but it’s not. I enjoyed Ms. Zaleski’s direct writing, but it’s probably not for everyone. I hadn’t heard of Funny Farm before I read this book, but it sounds like a very interesting place to visit if I were in the area.

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Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I received a widget from the publisher and was on the fence about reading this. I love dogs and have had 5 rescue dogs, so the rescue part was intriguing to me. I love animals in general but wasn't sure this was going to be my speed. I read mysteries and thrillers with the very occasional Marley and Me type of book thrown in. I figured maybe it was time for one of those off genre reads so I went for it and I am glad I did. This was different than I expected. It is mostly a memoir of Laurie Zaleski's life and how she came to own and run the Funny Farm, mostly as a result of her mother's influence. Every chapter ended with a specific animal's story. I thought the whole book would be these kinds of stories. That said, I did enjoy the book. Laurie's mother Anne was amazing and her dad was a total piece of garbage who made their difficult like unnecessarily more difficult. Laurie is inspiring too because she has helped so many animals live their best lives all while running a separate business. I think if I ever find myself in south Jersey I will make a point to visit the funny farm. It sounds like a pretty cool place.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and was a little hesitant, to be honest. But this was so pleasantly surprising! It was a mixture of uplifting, inspiring, and heartbreaking. One of those books that make you feel all the feels. Definitely recommend! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

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DNR. Computer broke down with Kindle app and couldn’t recover nor download again. My apologies. I would have liked to have read this.

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What a great book! Yes there are heartwarming animal stories. But there is a lot about the author’s not-so-glamorous childhood of poverty and abuse. It’s a great memoir and will touch every reader. One of my favorite books so far this year.

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Talk about the phoenix rising out of the ashes Laurie Zaleski does it as does her mother. This was not the book I was expecting. I thought it was all about animal rescue, it's a bit that and so much more. This book is a who is behind the marvelous Funny Farm and the road that got them there. Abuse, physical, mental, animal and extreme poverty were a daily thing for this family as they grew. Her mother was an amazing woman who left her abusive husband, and fought with nothing till she made it. She was a light and a force that kept them all alive and mentally strong to weather the torture their father unleashed for years.
Did I get the deep weepy feels while reading this. Oh yes I did, big huge crying sobs. Her father was such a monster. She wrote her memoir with her whole heart. Such an amazing woman, so much strength.
If you love to see people rise from the ashes, read this. It's an amazing story.

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I loved absolutely everything about this book! Even though there were some heart wrenching scenes and moments, the tenacity of the author and her mother are awe inspiring. This is an amazing read that so many people can relate to. There are issues of poverty, discrimination, domestic abuse, cancer, forgiveness, animal rescue, and perseverance. I cannot recommend this book enough!

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I flew through this wonderful book in one night. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it, but after reading it, I am happy to say I loved it. The author tells her story of growing up in a dysfunctional family until one day her mother finally got the gumption to leave their dad. They moved into a half a house that was in sad disrepair, but the rent was cheap. It’s a story of her mother and how she made the place into a home and found ways to keep the kids fed. Annie had a deep love for animals, and working at an animal shelter, she gradually began to bring home the ones that no one wanted. It started when they needed a dog to keep intruders away from the house, and snowballed from there. Uplifting and inspiring, recommended. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Laurie Zaleski, and the publisher.

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I’ve spent 15 minutes looking for the right words. Can’t seem to find them, so I’m settling for this all too generic: I loved this book!

Funny Farm is Laurie Zaleski’s memoir, and it’s both heartbreaking and uplifting. She lives on a farm with more than 600 rescue animals. Can you even imagine that kind of love and dedication?

Zaleski takes us back to her youth, when her idyllic, privileged childhood flipped a switch into abuse and poverty. Yet, despite all the adversity to come, her tone remains positive and hopeful. She doesn’t wallow in self-pity, and she doesn’t give in to the hardships. She is a shining example of perseverance.

Then the animals entered her story. What was this woman doing to my emotions? I might’ve been crying or laughing at any given time. Occasionally both together.

Laurie Zaleski’s memoir is honest, poignant, and oh so beautiful. Read it if you love a powerful memoir. Read it if you love animals. Read it if you need an emotional boost, or inspiration, or just because.

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Abused family transitions from frantic escape to harsh living conditions without any financial security and ultimately, some measure of untraditional success. Their path is bumpy; made more so by their husband and father who is intent upon continued harassment and abuse. But, when they succeed, their accomplishments are amazing.

Through their mother’s work, they start collecting a menagerie of lost and wounded animals. The family tends to these animals and builds around them a farm, of sorts, and eventually a caring community. Over time, the younger daughter, and author, Laurie Zaleski, purchases a more permanent location for the FUNNY FARM that began with their mother’s kind heart.

The book is fascinating and engaging. Chapters alternate between the heartbreak of the dysfunctional family and the rescue of special animals. The book is a delight to read. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Funny Farm toggles between Laurie Zaleski's childhood and traumatic marriage and her present life as owner of the Funny Farm, an animal sanctuary where she takes in an assortment of unwanted animals. I found myself reading the more biographical chapters quickly so I could savor the chapters that focused on the Funny Farm and its animals, although her escape from an abusive husband was compelling and heartbreaking. Some of the stories are hard to read, but this is a book full of heart, compassion and true grit.

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Oh how I needed this book! I love a good memoir, and this one was at times laugh out loud funny and so sad I would have to wipe my eyes. Laughing and crying can really be cathartic sometimes! Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski is such a heartwarming book. Laurie grew up in an abusive household when she was young. Her mom, Annie, finally left and took the three kids with her (Laurie, Cathy & Stephen) and made them a home the only way she knew how, with hard work, grit and determination. Along the way she not only saved herself and her kids, but she saved animals....a lot of animals. Annie did not have it easy, and what she went thru would have broken most people, and I believe these animals saved that family.

Laurie's ultimate goal was to buy her mom a farm for all the animals she wanted to save, and she accomplished that goal. Unfortunately, Annie passed away two weeks before they were able to move. But her dream was fully realized. Funny Farm is an actual animal rescue in New Jersey, with over 600 animals and counting. Laurie is amazing!! She not only took her mother's dream and made it a reality, but she took it to the next level. Funny Farm is a place where you can go visit and see the animals. I hope to be able to do that one day! The next best thing is to follow them online. They are on Facebook, as well as Instagram, @funnyfarmrescue 5⭐

Thank you to St Martin's Press and Laurie Zaleski for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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𝘐𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘶𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨!

What an incredible an amazing story of survival, resilience and love. Powerful and moving, this beautifully written memoir captured me completely. I loved every page.

Thank you St. Martin's Press, NetGalley and Laurie Zaleski for this gifted copy.

𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦: 𝘗𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘪𝘳𝘴, 𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘴, 𝘕𝘰𝘯 𝘍𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴.

Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals goes on sale tomorrow September 7, 2021.

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Bought at the eleventh hour, with much borrowing and white knuckling, the Funny Farm was the realization of Laurie’s mother’s fondest dreams. After a harrowing marriage, Laurie’s mother was inclined to take in all strays—human and animal—and offer a place of humor and warmth. In a ramshackle abode whose nearest neighbor was a junk heap and a wild wood, the author had at times a difficult, impoverished childhood, and simultaneously, a childhood filled with the wonder of nature. Readers who enjoyed Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals will also enjoy this memoir of growing up with a menagerie.

Review posted in Goodreads

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Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals by Laurie Zaleski is a highly recommended collection of stories about animals rescued alternating with an autobiography.

Currently Laurie Zaleski is the founder and owner of New Jersey’s Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary and the founder, president and CEO of Art-Z Graphics. It was actually her mother's dream to own an animal sanctuary and Laurie now continues that legacy. Laurie's mother, Anne McNulty Zaleski, left her abusive husband in the 1970's and fled with her children to keep them safe. The family also left behind a very comfortable life to live in poverty in a ramshackle house. What they had was love for each other and a can-do attitude. Along the way the family took in various stray animals and Anne, a fierce animal lover, devoted her life to rescuing animals.

In between the autobiographical chapters that are also a fierce tribute to her mother Anne, Zaleski tells the stories of various animals that have been rescued over the years. The many animal stories are entertaining and showcase the variety of animals that she takes in as well as the struggle and work it takes to keep an animal sanctuary running. Today the Funny Farm has more than 600 animals and is a non-profit organization which runs with help from the Zaleski family and lots of volunteers.

This is an engaging book and the writing is straightforward and accessible. Alongside the facts and tough circumstances there are humorous and inspiring occurrences too, which makes for a well-balanced narrative. As someone with a house full of adopted animal family members it's always wonderful to read anything that supports adopt don't shop. Be sure to check out the Funny Farm website.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Macmillian.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Amazon.

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Funny Farm is a memoir about how a family's relationships with animals help them deal with challenging times. Laurie, the author, grew up in prosperity until her mother took her children and moved to a small cabin/shack in the woods to escape domestic violence. The mother and children gave up all their material conveniences, but they survived the difficult time through the strength of the family bond and the animals the mother rescued

The book alternates stories from the author's childhood with those of the farmed animals that she has rescued.

Funny Farm is a poignant look at a family's love and the ability of animals to help people heal.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a galley in exchange for an honest review.

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What an amazing story. I appreciated how this was written - the author’s childhood life mixed in with snippets about animals on the farm. Written well and filled with a sense of humor that made me literally LOL, I didn’t want to put this down.

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The Funny Farm is about the life (so far) of Laurie Zaleski, the author, and her Funny Farm. The Funny Farm (when the book was written) had over 600 animals. This is a heartwarming story for anyone who loves animals. I want to thank NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an early copy to review.

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I don't typically seek out memoirs, but Laurie Zaleski's Funny Farm was a pleasure. Sad, heartwarming, and ultimately uplifting, I was drawn to reading this to find out how one copes with rescuing so many animals! I was not disappointed. Zaleski tells her story with such a warm voice--I'm so glad I've learned more about her and the Farm she nurtured in honor of her mother. Highly recommended, especially if, like me, you're a fan of all those zoo and veterinary reality shows.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Press for inviting me to read this advance copy in exchange for a review.

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This was a lovely story that tracked the life of the author as well as the story of her Funny Farm.

I found myself invested in the author and her life; in all of the issues and troubles that came along with it. Anne McNulty (the author’s mother) was a wonderful woman that taught her children well. She taught them how to grow in compassion despite all the hardships they had and to be the best people that they could in the midst of whatever life threw at them.

The animal tales in funny farm were amazing and I really enjoyed hearing all the different personalities of the animals. Being a veterinary technician I did have some problems with how Laurie handled some of issues with the animals especially Yogi the bull and his horns. Dehorning calves is a painful situation, but it tends to make their quality of life better once they are adults. I’ve always thought that the quality life of the animal as well as the lives of those taking care of them are both very important. It is sometimes hard to balance that but I feel at times you have to think about those around the bull in the case of Yogi and his horns which are now causing so many health concerns.

I did really enjoy how Lori described megaoesophagus (very truthful in its horror) and how Chucky and later Tucker were treated and survived while having this genetic default. She made the family’s hardships into a great lesson both for her and for the Funny Farm.

The heartbreak in realistic tales of both Laurie’s family growing up and the animals in the Funny Farm were amazing and terrible at the same time. I felt very much invested in this novel and had a hard time putting it down once started. I definitely now want to take a trip to New Jersey and find the Funny Farm and experience it for myself.

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As a huge supporter of rescue, I knew I had to read this book! And it was a total delight. Getting to hear Laurie’s story and how the Funny Farm came to be and meeting the animals was so much fun. Such a quick easy, and emotional read this was a book I’m glad I didn’t miss!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Thank you NetGalley, Laurie Zaleski and St. Martin’s Press for this edition and hearing my honest review. Looking forward to reading more with you

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Laurie’s mother Annie had it all planned out. She became a successful businesswoman, bought 15 acres of farm in New Jersey and she was going to have her life long dream of an animal rescue satisfied. However, two weeks before she moved she died.
This was not Annie’s dream, but quickly she realized her dream would be making her mother’s dream come true. She had no skills for animal rescue, no resources and a bad marriage with three kids. She decided to be brave and flee her marriage, throw herself into the rescue life with three kids in tow and soon realized that rescuing animals also helps rescue yourself.
This is a story of being brave, passionate, taking the leap and finding a home among other rescues. Anyone who’s ever rescued any animal at all knows the simple truth, you are rescuing each other.
Thank you @StMartinsPress and @netgalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

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This book alternates between Laurie’s and her siblings life growing up and stories about the animals at the farm.
It’s heart warming that her mother and then she rescued so many animals. At the same time it was a bit sad about their early life. I enjoyed the story and think that all animal lovers will too.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the early copy

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I absolutely loved this book! It was well written and kept me interested all the way until the end. I can’t wait for more by author!! Highly recommend.

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I loved Funny Farm. It was heartwarming, affirming, and funny. Laurie's childhood was far from easy, but both she and her mother forged ahead through adversity to succeed. Laurie's heart is so full of love for others - especially unique, abandoned, needy animals.

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I was immediately drawn to this book by the subtitle - My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals. I read How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery last year and this memoir reminded me a lot of that book.

There were a lot of similarities. For example, each chapter in this book ends with “Animal Tails” which highlights one or two of the animals living at the Funny Farm. I loved that aspect. The book is a memoir of Laurie Zaleski’s life, and each animal has a special place in her heart.

Laurie’s childhood was not easy, so this memoir is definitely heavy, but the Animal Tails bring a levity that was entertaining and heartwarming.

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I received this book for free as an advanced readers copy and am voluntarily giving my honest review.
Back in the days of Laurie Zaleski's growing up, everyone thought her family was right up there in the charmed life style of upper middle class life. The children; Cathy, Laurie, and Stephen; had what they needed and wanted. They saw their mother, Anne, look up to her husband Richard with adoring love. Until the day mom received a letter that blew apart the marriage and threatened her family. As the story continues, you will find a woman who will fight a corrupt system and would rather show her children true compassion and strength even if it means living in poverty. What Laurie learned from her mom will lead her to continue her mom's legacy to save every animal destined for death that she can. Laurie can't do it on her own and her journey to bring the Funny Farm to life in spite of impossible odds will make you proud to know of her as a fellow human being. I say this because this is the time for Laurie's story. You will understand that the least of us can help, even the poorest children. This is not some sob story (although there are times of sadness and frustration). Laurie and all who help her will bring some smiles and hope to us all. There are special stories of animals who can teach us a lot. Enjoy every bit of this book. I recommend reading it and yes, I know some is tough to weather, but it's well worth it for what it will bring to you in the end.

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This book had alternating chapters between stories about the rescue animals and Laurie's life. I found the chapters about her life to be heart wrenching at times, some parts almost brought me to tears. It really reminded me of two of my favorite memoirs (The Glass Castle and Educated). The chapters about the rescue animals were cute, and I'm definitely going to be looking up all of the rescue animals she mentioned on her Instagram and FB page. I think the alternating chapters could totally be written into two separate books, I was really intrigued and wanted more details about both!

This is the type of book you'll read in one sitting, I really enjoyed it! I would recommend this to animal lovers and fans of memoirs!

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An impressive real-life story. This already has a lot of high ratings, and expect it will receive a lot more. People like a good animal story, this is certainly unique. Recommended to basically anyone. This should sell well.

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars

This is really two books in one, and one of the them was unexpected. Each chapter starts with the story of Laurie, her mother Anne, and her brother and sister, who leave an abusive husband/father and his financial support and start out with nothing and how Laurie built the farm into a rescue operation. The second half of each chapter tells heartwarming stories about of some of the hundreds of rescue animals the Zaleski family has rescued over the years.

A quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Anne seemed to be a one of a kind, special individual. I hope to make it down to South Jersey and visit Funny Farm on visiting days.

I highly recommend this book.

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Author: Laurie Zaleski

An inspiring and moving memoir of the author's turbulent life with 600 rescue animals.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood, Laurie was determined to make the dream come true. Thirty years later as a successful businesswoman, she did it, buying a 15-acre farm deep in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She was planning to relocate Annie and her caravan of ragtag rescues―horses and goats, dogs and cats, chickens and pigs―when Annie died, just two weeks before moving day. In her heartbreak, Laurie resolved to make her mother's dream her own. In 2001, she established the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie’s mission to save abused and neglected animals.

Funny Farm is Laurie’s story: of promises kept, dreams fulfilled, and animals lost and found. It’s the story of Annie McNulty, who fled a nightmarish marriage with few skills, no money and no resources, dragging three kids behind her, and accumulating hundreds of cast-off animals on the way. And lastly, it's the story of the brave, incredible, and adorable animals that were rescued.

Personal Review:
They had me with the cute photos on the front and the mention of a memoir. I loved that this story followed Annie's journey throughout her new adventures. Cliche... the phrase about who rescuing who...but this story played that out. I enjoyed the book and I love that is based on a real place that provides 24/7 support for the animals. All of my animal-loving friends should go get this book, please :).

More information here:

Disclaimer: I was awarded this book from the publisher/Net Galley. Though I did not pay for the book, the opinions are strictly my own.

Happy Reading!

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As a person who also does rescue though on a much smaller scale, this book was made for me.

Really heartwarming book. It's alwayscgrear to hear about the good people in life..

Highly recommend.

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I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this book! This is a memoir of Laurie Zaleski and her 600 Rescue Animal Sanctuary called Funny Farm in New Jersey, and how it all came to be. She went through overwhelming odds with her family from a very young age. It started with just a few rescued animals at their meager home they began calling the funny farm and then became her mother's passion and life-long dream to own a big farm and run a big animal rescue sanctuary. Unfortunately, her mom developed cancer and while she fought hard, she lost her battle only two weeks before Laurie closed on the new farm that she had always dreamed of buying for her. Although Laurie Zaleski already owns and operates her own art firm in the city, she still decided to also continue on with the Funny Farm anyway in tribute to her mother's dream. It is a huge undertaking, her husband helps out along with her sister, brother, their spouses and their children. Since she made it become a tax-free charitable organization, they have many volunteers that also love to come out and help as well. Hundreds of people come out to see the animals. They donate money to help feed and care for them. The Funny Farm has become very popular.

I loved how each chapter of her book highlighted an animal story about a special animal or pair of bonded animals on her farm. It was very fun and heartwarming to read. Overall, this book was very well put together, it was packed with a full range of emotions, I just wanted to keep reading and not put it down. Her mom was a delightful, strong, hard-working person who gave her kids great, positive advice and upbringing against some pretty tough odds growing up and Laurie was a strong willed, good overall person because of her mother as well. What a great book, I highly recommend this one!

I would like to thank #Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for my eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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I really don’t know where to start. This book touched my heart on so many levels. Being an animal lover with a son that works at a similar animal non-profit in California (STAT Save the Animals Today). This Tory takes you on a journey of a young girl, her mom and siblings. Through terror, heartbreak and love this story will fill your heart. I went to try to order it for the owner of the place my son works at but it will none available until 2022. So I will have to wait and send her it then. Must read

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Funny Farm is by far one of the best books I've read this summer and this year, Zakeski switches off with her memoir and all of "children" on her rescue farm in New Jersey. Her childhood was unconventional. Her father was a true SOB and after reading what he did to some of their animals, i hope he is rotting in hell. Laurie has a heart of gold. Sharing the stars of her far with readers was the highlight of my day. Chucky, the pukey dog, Adele, the princess chicken, and all the other wonderful animals were wonderful. I immediately followed Funny Farms Rescue on social media. Read this book for important lessons and to also know there are still good people in the world.

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Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski
This book made me laugh and cry. The tales of all the animals that were rescued were heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s hard to think of anyone treating animals so poorly, but it happens. Thank goodness there are people and organizations like the Funny Farm that help to rescue and rehabilitate even the toughest cases. 600 rescue animals seems like such a huge number, yet it’s only a small portion of the animals who need help. The author let’s us in on her emotions through her life which run the gamut of not eating meat ever again to crying on the floor after feeding a puppy every hour on the hour only to have it puke and have to start all over again. She also tells of her family life with abuse. Her Mother is front and center in this book and also front and center in the abuse she had to endure. I feel like I got to know her Mom through the kindness she showed to not only the animals, but the people they met along the way. Being civil even to a husband that not only was abusive, but also didn’t even acknowledge he had children later on. The little sayings from her Mom were hilarious. I think I’ll always remember, ‘The more you cry, the less you’ll pee’. Overall this was a wonderful story. If you love animals you will enjoy reading it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St Martin’s Press through NetGalley exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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This memoir was very interesting. The stories about the animals living at the Funny Farm were heartwarming. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

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Wow, all I can say is wow. Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life With 600 Rescue Animals by Laurie Zaleski is the best book I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it.

The story is about Laurie growing up in an abusive household, being poor, and her hard working mother refusing to let it get any of them down. By accident, they started taking in animals that were mistreated, strays, and/or not wanted. In taking care of the animals, Laurie learns about life; good and bad. There are moments of tears, laughter, and all around good feelings reading this book. I highly recommend this book for anyone, but especially if your an animal lover and/or a survivor. I’m gonna have book hangover for a while from this one 😊

My review is voluntary and all comments and opinions expressed are my own.

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I was excited to receive an advance copy of Funny Farm from St. Martin’s Press as it’s been a longtime dream of mine to own land and rescue animals. I’m highly interested in the stories of others who are living the farm sanctuary life. Funny Farm did not disappoint, but it was so much more than the tale of an animal sanctuary. It was the page-turning story of Laurie’s mother, an amazing and determined woman who fled an abusive husband with nothing but her kids at a time when women didn’t have the mobility in society that they do today. The writing is superb and I often couldn’t put the book down, wanting to know what happened next. It’s a book that will stay with me for a long time.

As for the Funny Farm, I hope to visit in person someday soon! I appreciated all of Laurie’s anecdotes about what life is really like with 600 rescue animals. It’s certainly not easy and there are hard truths to be considered, but the love and the lasting imprint she is making on the lives of the animals and the people who visit and volunteer make it seem like the effort is well worth the reward. Funny Farm is full of great insight, compassion, and heart and I highly recommend giving it a read. I believe the publishing date has been moved to February 22, 2022, so keep an eye out!

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This book was such an unexpected surprise. Based on the cover, I expected a heartwarming, even cute, read about a life in animal rescue. Because it's a memoir, I expected an interesting true story, but didn't necessarily expect great writing. That would have all been fine, but this book is so much more and so much better than that. The writing is excellent, descriptive and engaging. Sure, it's a story about who path to animal rescue, and just that story is conduit to the life of the interesting people that went to the Funny Farm to get help for animals. But it's also the story of a family with a strong mother, an abusive father; of survival and compassion. The author goes back and forth between the story of her life and bits and pieces of stories from the farm and in doing this strikes a great balance in the mood of the narrative. Great, inspiring story that I would love to hear in audio version as well.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a beautifully written memoir of triumph over abuse and the mother who grabbed her three children and ran. The author is a daughter of Annie McNulty. Laurie has written a tribute to her mother filled with admiration and respect while describing how the animal rescue sanctuary came to be.

Coming from a privileged background, Laurie learns the depth of her ability to adapt to life in the shack by the pines. It’s a horrendous crash from the life they’d shared to one now of crushing deprivation.

Her mother, a powerhouse of optimism and love, steered the children through those dark years while caring for the desperate animals that seemed to cross their paths.

The author builds the story from the death of her mother, taking us back to the childhood that started the rescue to the Funny Farm that fulfilled her mother’s dream. The stories, both of human and animal, are deeply emotional.

The overwhelming theme of the novel is not of abuse but love. This is a story that feeds the need to read. Sweet, inspiring, humbling, mixed with shots of humor, this is truly a must read—and one most heartily recommended.

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This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. In addition to the stories about the animals on a rescue farm in New Jersey, it's also a memoir of the woman who runs the farm. A woman whose life got off to a rough start with an abusive father.
This is a heartfelt story. Zaleski isn’t a particularly talented writer. Her style is pretty basic. But the story she tells is real and engaging. After years of abuse, her mother finally leaves their father. Giving up a life of privilege, she moved into a shack with her kids. And then began rescuing a diverse group of animals. Not just dogs and cats, but goats, horses, pigs, chicken and cattle. It wasn’t an easy life but it was a fulfilling one for mother and kids alike. She was a role model for good and bad. Her horrible choice in men led Laurie to have a fear of commitment. But I loved her motto, “the more you cry, the less you pee.”
I recommend this for every animal lover. It’s a reminder that everyone deserves a chance.
My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.

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I absolutely loved everything about this book! I loved learning about Laurie's life, and about her relationship with her mother. I also liked that she didn't gloss over the bad parts of her life, specifcially her relationship with her dad. Mostly what I liked though, was reading about the different stories of the Funny Farm animals. Laurie is great at providing funny quips, but is equally as great conveying her emotions about her family, and about the animals. I really want to visit the Funny Farm some day!

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This book is fantastic! Going back and forth between the past and the present, the humans and the animals will make you smile, laugh, cry, and every emotion in between. It was just a lovely read - so much, in fact, that I went on Facebook about halfway through to follow the farm's page!

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What a wild romp! Laurie Zaleski has written one of the most beautifully and touching memoirs I have read in a hot minute. We follow Laurie as she grows up through an abusive father, a poor mother, and through the animals that helped her find her way. At the end of each chapter, there is an anecdote about an animal member of the Funny Farm, usually an animal that I would love to meet!

Would happily recommend to everyone in need of a cry, a laugh, and some hope.

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While this is a memoir with darker moments, overall it is balanced by the sweet and funny moments of Zeleski’s life, some lovely ones, as well as heartbreaking ones. With her life devoted to rescuing animals, it is necessary to learn to embrace the progress made, and the joy in witnessing these animals recover from neglect, abuse and health issues that plague them. The bonds formed between unusual friendships between animals - dogs and cats, chickens and dogs, squirrels and bunnies. These unusual friendships are testament that despite our outer appearances that the things we have in common can bond us rather than divide us. The question remains - why humans can’t do the same.

This begins with her relating a story of a man who comes down her driveway early after her return from her day job - after she’s shucked off her high heels and work attire, replacing it with overalls and boots - and sees him lifting an animal he obviously plans to abandon. She rushes out to give him a piece of her mind, letting him know that it’s illegal to dump any animal, along with a few other choice words.

Throughout this memoir the chapters share the stories of her life from childhood, the years that follow, alongside the stories of the animals that come into her life. Her childhood wasn’t an easy one, but her mother made up for the lack of love they received from their father. When events brought the children to tears, their mother’s catch phrase about crying would have them snickering in response.

Overall, while this has some darker moments, it is beautifully shared with more than enough charming and funny moments that leave the reader in awe of the author’s resilience. But it is the love that is so constant in this that kept me reading. A daughter’s love for her mother, despite her struggles, a woman’s love for those animals in need and deserving of love. A woman who believes in the healing power of love, and the courage and resilience to make a difference in their lives.

Pub Date: 22 Feb 2022

Many thanks for the ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press

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Annie Zaleski documents the highlights of her dynamic life as the "curator" of Funny Farm, an animal rescue community. From meager beginnings, and a quite dysfunctional childhood, Annie has held tightly to her mom's love and advise as she learns that sometimes animals can provide the companionship that humans just cannot.

This is such a sweet memoir, especially for those of us who are animal lovers, and grew up with lots of strays. Her account is well written, tying events from her childhood experiences to her life with animals. Each chapter starts with memoir, and ends with an "animal tail"! It's a really fun read and I highly recommend it to all who love their furry and feathered friends!

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me this pleasant opportunity to read and review Funny Farm!

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A must-read for those who enjoy memoirs, Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski was such a good book! I really liked reading Laurie’s story of growing up dirt poor and sharing how her mother, even without much money, managed to create a farm, a place for all kinds of animals. It wasn’t unusual for Laurie to walk around the house and find a raccoon living there- on purpose. Though she had this cool rescue place to call home, there was a terrible struggle between her abusive father and her kind-hearted mother.

In between her childhood recollections, Laurie shares some details about the animals on the farm she runs today, called Funny Farm. I loved reading about these animals and their distinct personalities.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood, Laurie was determined to make the dream come true. Thirty years later as a successful businesswoman, she did it, buying a 15-acre farm deep in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She was planning to relocate Annie and her caravan of ragtag rescues—horses and goats, dogs and cats, chickens and pigs—when Annie died, just two weeks before moving day. In her heartbreak, Laurie resolved to make her mother’s dream her own. In 2001, she established the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie’s mission to save abused and neglected animals.

Don’t miss this book, out on 2/22

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Third time is a charm! Annie Zaleski grabs her children and flees her nice home and abusive husband. The only place she finds she can afford is a shack in the middle of Southern New Jersey. It’s not much, but she and the kids do their best to make it a home. Living at a dead-end road well back from the main road, they become a drop-off for abused and unwanted animals needing some love. And this family has a lot of love to give. They take in anything, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, ducks, chickens, geese, pigs, you name it. Often these animals require medical attention and the Zaleski’s provide as best they can.

As the Funny Farm grows so do the kids. The kids have all grown up and moved onto careers. Laurie has started a successful business and still manages to help out her Mom, caring for more than 300 animals. She promises her Mom that someday soon they will have a real farm. Unfortunately, Annie doesn’t get to see that. She passes before Laurie buys a big farm and moves all the animals. Laurie makes the Funny Farm a nonprofit, opens the farm to visitors, gets a bunch of volunteers, and opens the door to even more misfit animals. Now at more than 600 rescue animals, the Funny Farm is not only a refuge for the abused, unwanted, and sick animals, it is an educational center for children showing how every person and every animal needs to belong somewhere, and needs to be loved.

I absolutely loved this book! I am not much of a nonfiction reader, but I fell in love with the cover and found Laurie’s stories enchanting and heartfelt. She had me laughing and she had me crying. The message I take from this book is hope, that the world can be a better place if only we think of others, whether human or animals, before ourselves. Anyone who loves a touching animal story will devour this book.

Robyn Heil, Buyer for Brodart Co.

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Absolutely adored this book. I am fortunate enough to live about 45 minutes away from the Funny Farm but have never visited. Now it’s on my to do list ASAP! Laurie’s storytelling is so heartfelt and honest; I was laughing for half the book and crying the other half. I love what she does for all these animals! A role model for sure.

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A stunning biography full of courage, resilience, passion, and love. Mixing humour, sorrow, love, and loss; Laurie Zaleski writes about the experiences in her life that led to the Funny Farm being the animal rescue it is today. Reading what went on throughout her childhood, what Laurie has accomplished with the Funny Farm and the number of animals who have been saved is noting short of incredible, While each chapter chronologically accounts what was going on in Laurie's life, the last few pages introduce one of the animals and tell their story and all the antics that go on.

The Funny Farm was not Laurie's dream but her mother's, and the love for the incredible woman her mother was shines through. A privilege to read. If you want a story of incredible strength, love and loss, and if you like animals - read this one!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are all my own.

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I absolutely loved this book!! Being an animal lover myself, I really admire Laurie Zaleski and what she has done - thanks to the guidance of her mother. My emotions ran the gamut as I read this book. I laughed at the funny parts, smiled at the tender parts, and cried at the sad parts. I cried at some of the good parts too because they tugged at my heartstrings. I had to 'tip back my head' a lot while reading this book (read the book & you'll see what I mean) but there were times I gave in and just sobbed.

The book is well-written with wonderful descriptions of the animals - thanks in part to their unusual and fun names - and personalities. It's just a wonderful read!

If I could give this book 10 stars I would!!

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I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started to read this story, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised that along with some hilarious depicts of animal escapades there were some raw emotions I felt throughout the story. It's a story of struggle, fear, anger, hope, love, humor, and courage.

Annie McNulty fled with her three kids, leaving behind the posh home. It wasn't the first time but would be the last. She found a run-down one bedroom shack without electricity or appliances to rent for $100. She told her kids it'd be just like camping. Believing that it was just temporary, Laurie had no idea that it would become the place she and her siblings would grow up in.

Laurie's mother had a soft spot for not just unwanted animals but people too. Over time, Annie would come home with another animal. Barely able to take care of her own family, Annie couldn't turn away an animal in need or people. Annie had the biggest heart and passed that on to her children.

Laurie had promised her mom to get a bigger farm. Today, that farm is an animal rescue and sanctuary for 600 animals. I laughed over Debbie, a goose with a crush on the UPS man, and Adele, a pampered chicken, and so many others. I highly recommend this book!

I received an ARC from NetGalley via St. Martin's Press and I have voluntarily reviewed this book.

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I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I’d never heard of the Funny Farm Sanctuary, but I loved reading about the founder and her childhood. Her book reminded me of other well known gritty memoirs by powerful independent woman. Between each paragraph is a story about a rescue animal, and I’ll admit these stories often got me out of the main story. It felt like there were two books here, one about a tough childhood, another about the founding of a sanctuary. I’m giving this four stars because I really really loved the main meat of the memoir, I just wish it was a bit more cohesive in the style and theme. Thank you NetGalley, the author and publishers for this ARC!

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Annie McNulty married to a college professor seemingly had a perfect relationship and life with three kids in a wealthy suburb but one day that changed and Annie’s only recourse was to flee from the abuse that would assuredly find her children at some point. They ended up in a dump of a house almost in the middle of no where, or at least it felt like that. There, Annie started over again, teaching her kids along the way that there were more important things than possessions. Into their life, came lost souls as well as lost and found animals needing a fresh start. Lots and lots of animals. And this is how Funny Farm started in Laurie Zaleski’s story, Funny Farm.

Funny Farm gives anecdotes about the numerous animals who have come to Funny Farm which are interwoven with Laurie’s story of her mother and two siblings. Both threads show how good people can be but also how bad they can be. There is no glossing over here.

For most of Funny Farm, I considered myself lucky that I hadn’t let go of the waterworks and was pretty sure that I’d make it to the end without destroying a box of Kleenex, but with about a third of the way to go that ended. As is mentioned in the blurb, there are happy parts and sad parts because that’s what makes up life. It’s unavoidable. And even though I cried, there is so much hope and happiness surrounding the establishment of Funny Farm that I couldn’t help but be inspired. It’s stories like this, about people going out of their way to help those without a voice, that makes me believe that may be more good people out there than sometimes seems. I liked the forthright generosity of an individual who will give an animal a shot at a quality life even if the quantity might be short.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable, inspiring read, check out Funny Farm. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I selected this book and was so glad I was approved to read. I love animals and enjoyed reading about all the rescues described by Zaleski. It was interesting how she described her family as rescues which parallels the animals she spent years saving. Both Zaleski and her animals were survivors and it definitely was an interesting read.

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Wonderful story about a family with a strong mother, proving with love and hard work you can overcome any obstacles and be better people for the hardships!!

This book was a joy for this animal lover to read. It gave me all the feelings - laugh out loud to tears all in one chapter. I had never heard of this amazing story - but I won't soon forget it!

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, for this free review copy.

Funny Farm is a memoir about Laurie Zaleski and a great read. We learn about her child hood, the highs and the lows, we meet some animals that she still has, or had in the past. We read all about love and loss, growing and growing apart. As someone who is a huge animal lover, and always trying to rescue what I can afford, I loved this book from start to finish. After I was done, I found her Funny Farm page on Facebook, and watched many videos she has posted there, and learned a little bit more. Highly recommend this memoir and enjoyed reading it early. Comes out February 22nd, 2022.

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What a wonderful book! It's beautifully written and I hated to see it end. I loved it!! This is a *Must Read* book.
I received a complimentary copy from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley and was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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“You never know what you are capable of until the day comes wen you have to go places you hadn’t planned on going.”

Laurie Zaleski knows how to make a debut. Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life With 600 Rescue Animals has created a tremendous buzz, and all of it is deserved. My thanks go to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for the review copy. This book will be available to the public Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

Laurie’s early childhood was in many ways an enviable one; her mother stayed home to raise Laurie, her brother, and her sister, and her father made enough money to hire household help and buy a couple of vacation homes, too. There was nothing they lacked for, other than physical safety. Because while her father could be warm, and loving, and generous, and funny, he could also be a monster. His reign of terror was worsened by alcohol consumption. As the beatings became uglier and more frequent, Annie, their mother, chose poverty for the children and herself over the constant terror and danger of living with their dad.

“’I almost became a nun,’ Mom would joke years later. ‘Then I met the devil…’ Annie McNulty and Richard Zaleski fell in love like tripping into an open manhole: one wrong move followed by a long dark plunge.”

There’s one searing episode Zaleski recounts, toward the end of their life with Dad, in which they are all hidden in a bedroom with the door blocked shut, and their father is sneaking up on them, commando crawling up the hallway toward them so they won’t see his shadow approaching, and he has a large knife between his teeth. It sounds like something from a Stephen King novel, doesn’t it?

And so, when Annie’s efforts to build a modest nest egg to finance their flight is uncovered, she has no other option but to leave without the money. She finds a dumpy cabin in the woods, half fallen down and in no way legally rentable, and strikes a bargain with the owner. To say that their standard of living decreases is the understatement of the year, but they make it work.

Once she has made her escape, apart from the creepy forays from an unseen enemy that occur from time to time, Annie can’t turn away anyone else, human or otherwise, that is in a dark and vulnerable place. The woods surrounding their little shack begin sprouting makeshift outbuildings; there’s a little lean-to here, and a sort-of paddock there. And it keeps growing.

Zaleski is a gifted storyteller, and she alternates her narrative from the present to the past, breaking up the nightmarish episodes of her childhood with hilarious stories, most of which are about the critters. Her writing is so nimble that I find myself repeatedly checking to see what else she’s published, because there’s just no way this can be her debut. But then, that’s what they said about Harper Lee, right?

Perhaps the most glorious aspect of this book is seeing how Annie McNulty’s can-do attitude, sterling work ethic, and positivity transformed her life and lit a path for her children. She provided them with an outstanding role model, and in return, they did everything possible for her when cancer forced her to slow down.

This book will inevitably be compared to Educated and The Glass Castle because it is a memoir of someone that has overcome horrifying challenges in childhood and emerged triumphant. But make no mistake, Zaleski’s story is in no way derivative, and likely will be held up as an example for future writers. It makes my feminist heart sing!

Highly recommended.

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What a marvelous book full of beleaguered animals, their rescues and the light they brought to the world. Coupled with those stories is one of resilience, hard times and can do spirit. Escaping a brutal domestic situation, Laurie Zaleski's mother, Annie, gathered up her three small children and fled to a ramshackle house without running water or electricity in the woods of New Jersey. As they made it a home, the animals kept arriving and arriving bringing their own lessons in love. Highly recommended.

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Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski is a heart-wrenching and heart-warming memoir. Whether you love memoirs or just love animals, this book is a compelling read. Ms. Zaleski tells her family’s story by alternating between the story of their lives and those of the animals they ultimately rescue. Funny Farm was a cute family name for the crazy household that was filled with all sorts of castoffs and misfits. Funny Farm eventually becomes the name of the farm that Ms. Zaleski buys for her mother so that she can properly house all the rescue animals she takes in. Ultimately, Laurie becomes the keeper of the farm and the animals.

My heart was broken while reading Laurie’s story. Her difficult childhood, was filled with love from her mother and siblings as well as hardship and hunger. Her mother’s fantastic outlook and attitude clearly carry the family through a lot of rough times. Her compassion isn’t reserved just for her children. She took in animals and people who needed help in their escape from neglect or abuse. To read of Laurie’s ultimate success, both professionally and personally, was sweet and satisfying. The stories of the animals to whom she give refuge are equally compelling.

Funny Farm is a real farm that is operated as a nonprofit; you can check out their good works, get involved or donate by visiting their website:

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Loved! Loved this place and a,l that went on.
Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced reading copy.

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From a comfortable life with her parents and her brother and sister, Laurie Zaleski led a life that looked good from the outside. From the inside is was a horrible, dangerous prison. Her father was an alcoholic and an abuser. Her mother stuck it out as long as she could until there was no choice but to run, to escape to an uncertain situation but one that was safe. Her plan had been to save enough money but instead she had to leave with nothing but her children. Her strength, grit and determination is an amazing story right there but there is so much more to her story. Laurie tells the story beautifully.
The sanctuary her mother, Anne, created for her family was a broken down cabin without running water and electricity but it also had some land. As a rental it was just about one step up from a tent but Anne made it work. She not only rescued herself and her children, she rescued animals, of all kinds. Cats, dogs, cows, horses, goats,...if it was an animal in need Anne was there to help. Everyone, two legs or four, deserved a chance.
Laurie found her way and it included joining in her mother's animal rescue work. Her mother's dream is now Funny Farm Rescue located in Mays Landing, New Jersey. Her story is so uplifting and her mother was such a special person, I was engaged from page one, from the low points to the high points, all of the hope and love comes through. This is a must read.
My thanks to the publisher St. Martin's Press and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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This is a memoir of Laurie, the woman who started and runs the Funny Farm animal rescue. At times heartbreaking, others hilarious, it tells her story starting with her mother and siblings escaping an abusive father, to her childhood growing up in poverty, to finally realizing her mother's dream of an animal rescue after her death. The story of her life is interspersed with stories of some of the animals on the farm.
This book was so much more than I expected. So inspiring and emotional. I loved it!
I received a complimentary advance reader copy of this book. The views and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own and given voluntarily.

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A Crazy, Loving Life with Rescue Animals

Laurie Zaleski grew up on a rescue farm. Not the fancy kind where donors pay to keep a variety of animals that are not wanted by their owners, or headed for the slaughterhouse. Her mother, Annie, escaped a brutal marriage with her three children and set up housekeeping in a one bedroom house with animals everywhere. Annie couldn’t bear to see animals mistreated or euthanized.

Laurie wasn’t ambitious for that kind of life, but she loved her mother. When she could afford it, she purchased a small farm and planned to move her mother to it. Unfortunately, her mother died just before the move and Laurie found herself in the rescue business. Now she has six-hundred animals and a wonderful group of volunteers to help.

If you love animals, this is a must read book. Laurie tells the story of her family and their struggles interspersed with tales of the animals. The family’s story is sometimes a little dark, but the animal stories are wonderful. The whole book is a heartwarming tribute to Annie and to Laurie’s desire to keep on with her mother’ dream.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.

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Funny Farm is Laurie Zaleski’s story of abused abandoned and neglected people and animals. The resiliency of two footed and four footed when respect, love and basic needs are met. I loved this story thinking it would be all about the animals. It is about the animals but it’s also Laurie and her mother’s Annie’s story too.

I cannot recommend this story enough. It is an inspiring if heartbreaking at times story beginning with Yogi and Boo until the very last word. My number one book to have read this year which is saying something since I usually read fiction. Real is so much better this time. I would give it give more than 5 stars if I could.

An ARC of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley which I voluntarily chose to read and reviewed. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Zaleski's memoir is wonderful. It is well written, engaging, entertaining and informative. She tells us how her parents separated. Her mother took five year old Laurie and siblings to a run down rental house with some land. Annie Zaleski's dream was to run an animal rescue. Even while working hard to feed her children, Annie would take in stray animals. Most of the animals were misfits so she called her collection a “funny farm.” It was a dream finally fulfilled by Annie's daughter. The Funny Farm Animal Rescue & Sanctuary became a reality in South Jersey, unfortunately, two weeks after Annie's death.

Zaleski includes an informative section about an interesting animal at the end of each chapter in this memoir. These animal vignettes are heartwarming. I learned about unusual animal behavior, puppy mills, odd diseases and treatments, and more. There were times I laughed and times I wanted to cry. The stories are a touching witness to the value of rescuing animals cast off by others.

I am impressed with how Zaleski overcame childhood poverty to establishing a successful photography and graphic arts company. She was also determined to fulfill her mother's animal rescue dream, juggling a career and requests to take in just one more animal. The total now is 600 rescued animals and counting. This memoir is well written and captivating. It shows the heart of one who truly loves animals. It also praises the many volunteers without whom the farm would never continue and reminds us of the transforming experiences urban children have when they hug a four legged rescued outcast.

I highly recommend this memoir. It is an inspiring story of the will to overcome difficulties with a determination to help others.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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Loved this memoir I am looking at my two rescue bpups right now,this is a subject close to my heart.Laurie’s story drew me in her at times heart wrenching story can bring you to tears.Laurie and her mothers strength spirit and love for animals kept me turning the pages.Highly recommend.#netgalley #st.Martins books

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I enjoyed this story very much. It shows with a lot of hard work and some faith things are possible. I am so glad that promises were kept even to a person who was no longer here. There is a lot of emotions going in this story. A very good book for anyone to enjoy. I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book.

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This book is not quite what I anticipated from the cover and title. There is a fair amount of darkness in this book as other reviewers have noted it is not all happy go lucky type of story. But do not let this stop you from reading this book it is a very good read. The author and her family were the Jones everyone tried to live up to, they were the house that the neighborhood parties took place at. But underneath this house was hiding some dark secrets which eventually causes the mother to grab the author at the age of five and her brother and sister and make a run it for it. What a drastic change this family faced but, in some ways, they turned out better for it and this would lead to the precursor of the Funny Farm where they initially took some dogs in for protection grew to a menagerie. There are lighthearted and humorous parts of this book also like the story of the runaway Emu who people swearing they were not drinking when they reported the six-foot turkey or the sneaky skunk who would escape from his house and break to the Funny Farm souvenir shop and steal stuffed animals. It was interesting to read about the friendships of animals with one another that you would think would never happen. You will see how the author and her family took or taken animals who at one time had little to no hope and they thrived, they took animals who vets said they should put down and the animals proved the vets wrong. The Funny farm has given visitors a place to come to, to forget about their troubles for a while.

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This is one of those books that I’ve put off reviewing since I was afraid I couldn't convey just how meaningful the story was to me on various levels. It’s divided into lighter chapters with farm-related experiences. And stories of family life, which at times felt dark and emotional. Put the chapters altogether and you have a book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page.

The things that can be taken away from this unusual story are countless. At times I wanted to cry for, and with, Laurie’s mother. She basically went from riches to rags overnight when she bravely took her children away from an abusive lifestyle. Yet, she chose to adopt a survivor’s attitude and constantly set that example for her children.

Did she model everything correctly? No. Like all parents, she hit it out of the ballpark with some examples and struck out horribly with others. Unfortunately, her strikeouts greatly affected her children.

As I mentioned earlier, the author managed to weave stories about the animals expertly into her family story. Some might find it disturbing to weave the chapters back and forth breaking the flow of the story. But I think most will be happy for the balance of humor and the touching, many times emotional details of growing up in what most would label dire living conditions.

Zalesky made my heart sing as she brought back the past for me. Her mention of early television shows, brand names, stores, and much more was like watching a movie as it brought back memories. I’m always amazed at debut authors with such talent for bringing stories to life.

My Concerns

Final Thoughts
This is the story of survivors. A strong family living in a small house, with no running water or electricity manages to create some lasting memories. Some, as you will see aren't good memories, but many are.

Paralleling this strong family we see animals that are doing the same. Attempting to survive their unfortunate situations.

I would compare this book in some ways to The Glass Castle, Educated, Unbroken and A Child Called It. All of these people were survivors of their circumstances. No, much more than survivors. All were people who not only survived but became inspirational examples to others.

My thanks to NetGalley for an early copy of this book and the ability to post a review without any stipulations.

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Zaleski explores how she came to run the "Funny Farm," a refuge for animals that would not have a home otherwise, in this entertaining memoir. Zaleski brings readers back to her childhood to find answers as to how she got herself into this happy mess. She uncovers memories of domestic violence from her father leading to their eventual flee when she was still in elementary school. Where they ended up next gave her mother plenty of land to take in animals, who, like them, didn't have a safe home.

There are countless moments of fear and suffering throughout the book, but Zaleski continues to bring it back through humor and the importance of the mission she has for the Funny Farm that make this book a breeze to read, and kept me hooked throughout. I would recommend this book for anyone who doesn't mind exploring themes of abuse in childhood with a positive outlook coursing throughout the story.

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Princess Fuzzypants here: This is an interesting book in that there are two stories being told alternately. We have the stories of the various residents of the Funny Farm over the years. Like so many animal tales from rescuers, they are filled with pathos and laughter. Each animal is so different from the other and some of the “hook ups” are downright wild. The different species who find love and companionship with a creature of another species gives hope to the world. If they can find common ground, why cannot we all.

The other story is one of abuse, cruelty, and promise. Laurie’s father was an evil man. Until her mother escaped with the three children, going from middle class comfort to abject poverty in one fell swoop, every day held the threat of violence. They thought they were escaping his brutal grasp but thanks the court systems, his money and power and his never ending need to make them suffer, he systematically tried to take away what little they had. He never paid any support but thought nothing of killing their beloved pets. It would not have been unusual if his children had not grown up warped and mean like him.

Luckily, they had their mother, who, although she had many faults including her taste in men, also had an unquenchable spirit and incredible grit. She passed that along to her children along with her love for animals. It was to honour a promise Laurie made to Annie that Funny Farm came into being. It was not an easy nor smooth transition and sadly, Annie would die before seeing it come to fruition. But she knew it was coming soon. And when it did, in spite of many a trial and tribulation, it is running now. Laurie has saved hundreds of animals and given them the best life possible.

High paw to Laurie and her family and volunteers. Five purrs and two paws up for the book.

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Okay I admit that the cute cover attracted me to this book. As I started reading it, I could not put it down! I laughed and I cried throughout this book. Zaleski skillfully alternates between her tough childhood to present day on her non-profit farm sanctuary and the troubled back stories of animals that end up calling the Funny Farm their forever home. I learned more about a variety of animals (from pigs to donkeys, etc.) and felt inspired by her persistence and love. For an incredibly inspiring read about overcoming hardships (as humans and animals) - I highly recommend this book.

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This book made you want to be present in everything that happened. From Annie finding the courage to flee her abusive husband with the kids with nothing but the clothes on their backs to all the wonderful animals that were rescued. Some of the animals just broke your heart but they never gave up on them. So many lived longer than any of the vets thought they would. Their lives were not filled with things but they had all that they needed. Food on the table, a roof over their heads and a good work ethic. Annie was all about the kids doing well in school to earn scholarships. The scars that were left on the kids is that they didn't trust enough to be married let alone have kids. Funny Farm is a tribute to Annie and the circle of life.

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Excellent book full of inspiration, humor and heartbreak!
This book tells the story of Laurie's life from childhood to present day and the lessons learned along the way. In between chapters of Laurie's life are chapters recounting how some of the animals ended up at Funny Farm.
Loved this book and after reading, I looked up her Facebook page and got to see some of the animals that are mentioned in the book.
Wonderful book that is sure to be loved by everyone!

I received this book from St Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a delightful, heartwarming read! Laurie does a wonderful job bringing you along on her journey from once running a graphic design firm to now managing 600 rescued animals at the Funny Farm! This is a beautiful story of bravery, resilience and laughter. Laurie writes with so much emotion - it gives you all the feels! Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and the author for a gifted copy. This is my honest review.

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Laurie Zaleski didn't plan to care for 600 animals, but in a way, she had no choice. When you read her memoir, “Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life With 600 Rescue Animals," caring for others is part of her genetic makeup. From the time her mom Annie escaped an abusive husband, the example she created for Laurie and her two siblings was simple - never neglect others.

Laurie's early life was one of privilege. Behind closed doors, though, it was filled with her father's alcohol-fueled beatings. When her mom left him, they traded luxury for a run-down shack in the woods. What it lacked in creature comforts was made up by the creatures, human or otherwise, who sought comfort there. Despite the small income Annie brought in, Laurie's family made the woods their home. And what little they had, they shared with abandoned or abused critters.

Laurie's memoir is a blend of resolution and compassion. She recounts the good times and the tough times with humor and a can-do spirit. The best parts, though, are the animal tales that go far beyond the usual cat and dog. Pigs, horses, squirrels, ducks - no species is turned away. There's Adele, a chicken that wears diapers and lives in the house. Yogi is a steer that arrived in the back seat of a Toyota. Emily the emu has outlived two mates, Elvis and Enoch. And the list goes on and on. The only negative I have is that there's not more animal stories! However, they have a website and social media presence.

It was her mother's dream to save animals, and when Annie got sick, Laurie made it come true. Thirty years later, the Funny Farm, as it was affectionately called, now is a nonprofit that promotes animal rescue and awareness. Annie died two weeks before the 2001 move-in day at the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie's mission to save abused and neglected animals.

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I am so glad I was sent a widget to read this. I now follow Funny Farm on social media and am grateful for Laurie's heart and this rescue. Some of Laurie's journey is heartbreaking and I took a few breaks while reading. It's a beautiful story and she is an animal hero for sure.

I had not heard of this sanctuary and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about rescues. I am grateful for her compassion and tenacity. A lot of what she has done has not been easy. I enjoyed reading about her journey to open the farm and rescue Funny Farm has become. Some stories were hard to read as she did not shy away from writing about the death of some of her beloved rescues. Her father was an evil man and it was hard to read some of what he did to some of their pets growing up to get back at her mother, who left him due to abuse.

I highly recommend this and wish to say thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital copy to read for review. It is a beautiful story.

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Super cute and fun read. It always looks like such a dream when you see videos of people rescuing animals but the extremely hard work puts everything into perspective.

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Loved this book! I brought it in for our store and have told quite a few customers about it. It was such a compelling read and really pulled at my heart strings. Laurie is a fighter and I loved h reading about her life’s journey and how the farm came to be. As soon as I finished the book I looked Laurie up on social media to start following her

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Reading 2022
Book 34: Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals
by Laurie Zaleski

Listened to this book on audio and had the hard copy from #NetGalley. This was an unexpected find. Audio really has become my preferred method for memoirs. This sadly was not read by the author, but the narration was good nonetheless.

Synopsis: Funny Farm is Laurie's story: of promises kept, dreams fulfilled, and animals lost and found. It's the story of Annie McNulty, who fled a nightmarish marriage with few skills, no money and no resources, dragging three kids behind her, and accumulating hundreds of cast-off animals on the way. And lastly, it's the story of the brave, incredible, and adorable animals that were rescued.

Review: Looking for a good audio book, pick this one. In addition to the dark moments in this book including divorce, abuse, animal cruelty, poverty, bulling, there are so many light moments especially the stories about the animals. Learned a few things about rare animal pets and some interesting facts. Light hearted at its core, you may want to take a trip to NJ to visit the Funny Farm after you read this book. 5 🌟.

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Author Laurie Zaleski's love of animals began early in life. Her mother Annie loved all kinds of animals and had a dream of rescuing the unwanted, abused and abandoned animals who needed a second chance. First, her mother had to escape her abusive life at the hands of Laurie's father Richard, a wealthy professor with a mean streak. She along with Laurie and her two siblings had fled the family home several times only to be coaxed back by Richard. Finally they were able to escape for good but, they were never really rid of him. It was the mid-1970s and a difficult situation for a mother to be in. With almost no money of her own and no alimony she made the best of a bad situation with multiple lower level jobs. One of Annie's jobs was in animal control and she was forever bringing a soon to be put to death animal home. Her big heart planted her dream of having her own rescue. Unfortunately, that didn't happen for her -- she passed away at 52. Laurie, however, was able to live her mother's dream. She bought a 15 acre parcel in New Jersey's Pine Barrens region and began taking in helpless creatures: horses, pigs, goats, calves, llamas, cats, wounded birds and many other varieties of unwanted or neglected animals. Today some 600 creatures call Funny Farm home.

I loved this memoir and the way it was written. The chapters alternate between the past Laurie's and her sibling's childhood and her mother's need to see that her children learned compassion by help animals. The chapters that focus on the present - are about "funny farm" and how various animals that live on the farm found their way there. I loved the resilience of this family and how they didn't dwell on misfortune but picked themselves up and made it their mission to help the helpless. Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary is open to the public and has many loyal volunteers and supporters today. I highly recommend this memoir.

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Thanks to St Martins Press and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book, which I totally loved.

As an animal (and animal-rescue) lover, what I expected from this book was a charming story of an accidental animal rescuer, but what I got was so much more! I had not come across the Funny Farm on social media, even though it’s not too far away from me, so all of these stories and characters, both human and animal, were new to me.

This book was a total delight and I absolutely could not put it down. Zaleski has had such an interesting, eventful life; her story would be incredible even if it did not end up at an animal rescue (talk about a cherry on top!) When she was young, her mother, (a real you-couldn’t-make-her-up character full of gumption and grit and pithy sayings), escaped with her three kids from her abusive, unhinged husband and with him, the swanky suburban middle-class lifestyle to which they’d become accustomed.

They end up in a falling-down farmhouse shack next to a spa full of sex-workers, and, despite setbacks and shocking acts of retribution from her father, there, they rescue the needy, both human and animal. They share what little they have and building a new life for themselves with kindness and hard work. Interspersed in the chapters of Zaleski’s colorful life story is the story of an animal who the farm has rescued, perfect for fans of unlikely animal friendships or anyone who is craving a heartwarming story.

Overall, this is a hugely inspriational story of resilience, determination, and wild success. Just a great read that I would recommend to every reader (and now I can’t wait to visit the Funny Farm in person!)

CW: I’ve got a big aversion to books with animal suffering, and this book has some, but it’s not cheap or done for shock, and the book is overall extremely uplifting and feel-good. If you’re like me, you’ll want to know before you start that some bad things happen to animals in this book, but for the most part, the stories have happy endings, and the point of the book, overall, of course, is caring for and loving those animals.

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Funny Farm is the best memoir I’ve read this year. Laurie Zaleski lived in a beautiful house and had a pretty bedroom and lots of toys until her parents split up. Her mother Annie moved them to a shack in the woods and struggled just to put food on the table. But then Annie brought home a dog–and then another. Eventually, chickens and horses joined the family. Pretty soon people were bringing them stray animals. And that was the early beginnings of the Funny Farm Animal Rescue. Zaleski tells a layered and fascinating story of how her mother had the courage to leave an abusive, but well-to-do and popular husband, and start life over with her children and many, many animals. The stories of the animals are interspersed throughout. Some chapters deal with Laurie’s family trials and her father’s vindictive revenge, while others tell beautiful stories of animals who became part of her family. But it is also a story of Zaleski’s life and how she succeeded in business, and then how she made The Funny Farm an official animal rescue.

This is everything you would want in a memoir–completely honest, fascinating, and heroic in more ways than one. It is easy to see in Zaleski’s life how she learned from the courage of her mother and was not afraid to take risks in business and in life. The love for the animals shines through on every page, and each animal rescue story touches the heart. The honesty is always there, whether Laurie is talking about her cruel father or her mother’s bad taste in men. There is humor, grief, love, and shock in these pages. I recommend everyone read the story of the Funny Farm. I guarantee an inspiring experience, and maybe a few tears. I received a free copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

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This book is absolute perfection. Its a beautiful tribute to her mother, Annie McNulty and a road map to the eventual opening of the Funny Farm, an incredible animal rescue on New Jersey with all of the bumps in the road along the way. I loved every moment of reading this, though some of it is difficult as it addresses the horrible, real and honest abuse and mental illness of a parent at a time when woman had zero power, money, authority to fight back and no help from anyone in law enforcement or authority. When Laurie’s mother couldn’t take one more moment of abuse she piled her kids into her car and hightailed it out of their otherwise seemingly idyllic life to start anew literally from the ground up. Along with saving herself and her children she started saving animals. This is a wonderful look back at what got Laurie to where she is now and the amazing work she and her family do on behalf of helpless animals in need and as a magnificent tribute to her mother. This book is a gift. I am so glad I read it. A visit is most certainly on my agenda.

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Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a copy of Laurie Zaleski’s memoir, Funny Farm.

Running from an abusive marriage, Laurie Zaleski’s mom fled from her husband, taking a small amount of belongings and her three young children. Money was tight, but they managed to find a rental property in a rural area. The house was small and run down, a place that had been used for squatters and teenagers, but with her determination and upbeat attitude, Zaleski’s mom turned the place into a home where she would raise her children. The property was big enough that they started to amass an assortment of rescue animals, including a beloved horse whose broken leg they healed.

They were not able to move far from Zaleski’s father, who despite continuing to terrorize Zaleski’s mother, was granted partial custody of his children. Zaleski witnessed acts of cruelty inflicted by her father, who was wealthy and prominent in their local community.

Healing and comfort was found in their animal community. Animals, who like Zaleski’s family, were learning to regain trust after trauma. In her adult years, Zaleski would be pulled in two directions; leaving the farm to pursue city life or continue her mother’s work. It isn’t a spoiler to share that she chose a life on the farm and not only took on her mother’s animals, but bought a bigger property. Her rescue is thriving with volunteers and a large social media presence. Her instagram page for the Funny Farm Animal Sanctuary is absolutely delightful, a must-follow for animal lovers.

Funny Farm is a tough read. The rampant abuse; spousal, child, and animal, is hard. Trigger warning is an apt caution. That said, the love and compassion overshadow the abuse, ultimately allowing those abused to triumph. I connected with Zaleski’s pull towards different paths in her adult life, but ultimately following in her mother’s footsteps. Zaleski’s caregiving during her mother’s cancer, took me back to 2008, when I was in a similar position. I may not have a whole farm of rescue animals (just two spoiled cats) or have survived an abusive childhood, but I could relate to much of this memoir.

Funny Farm is a great choice for animal lovers who can stomach the difficult parts. Either way, make sure to visit the Funny Farm social media pages for adorable animal antics. If you’re in New Jersey, you can even visit the rescue and meet Zaleski!

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