Book excerpt: “The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel

Book excerpt: "The Last Animal" by Ramona Ausubel


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Ramona Ausubel, the award-winning author of “Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty,” returns with “The Last Animal” (Riverhead Books), her buoyant take on “Jurassic Park,” about the surprising discovery of a perfectly preserved, 4,000-year-old baby mammoth.

Read an excerpt below. 

“The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel

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“I feel like digging.”

So they dug. Eve dug in one direction and Vera dug in the other and the thing was long and as thick as a small tree trunk. It had pores and skin, and it had fur. Vera came to a curve and followed the shape downward until she found the end, where there was an opening. “It’s a trunk,” she said. “It’s a trunk, Evie.”

They dug faster, both on Eve’s side, hoping the trunk was attached to a body, a whole mammoth frozen upright in this spot.

“If there’s a body we should go get help,” Eve said.

But when the trunk ended more quickly than they expected and the body attached was small and they realized it was a frozen baby, it felt like a rescue mission more than a discovery and they did not stop but dug until their fingers were soaked and frozen. It was perfect. It was sad and beautiful and perfect. The size of a large dog. “Pull,” Eve said, and they reached their arms around the back, Vera on the front end and Eve on the rear and they hugged it, this cold body, and they pulled hard, bracing against the cliffside until it came free with a sucking sound and both girls fell backward. The mammoth smelled of the beginnings of rot. It was starting to thaw. Vera pushed it off herself and stood. She was elated and disgusted and there was a rampage in her chest. “Is this happening?” she asked. It looked like the animal might at any time open its big eyes.

Excerpted from “The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel. Copyright © 2023 by Ramona Ausubel. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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“The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel

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See also: 

De-extinction: Bringing animal species back from the brink

Book excerpt: “The Last Animal” by Ramona Ausubel

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