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We the Animalsby Justin Torres
If just hearing the phrase "lyrical coming-of-age novel" makes your shoulders sag and your attention lag, hold that thought. Justin Torres has breathed fresh life into a tired form. We the Animals is a deranged rollercoaster careening through the lives of Torres's passionately dysfunctional family, who love one another to pieces literally. Fun, moving, and, yes, lyrical.
Synopses & Reviews
An exquisite, blistering debut novel. Three brothers tear their way through childhood smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn — he's Puerto Rican, she's white — and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.
Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
"Three brothers and a dueling husband and wife are bound by poverty and love in this debut novel from Stegner Fellow Torres. Manny, Joel, and the unnamed youngest, who narrates, are rambunctious and casually violent. Their petite 'white' mother, with her night-shift job and unstable marriage to the boys' impulsive Puerto Rican father, is left suspended in an abusive yet still often joyous home. Nothing seems to turn out right, whether it's Paps getting fired for bringing the boys to work or Ma loading them in the truck and fleeing into the woods. The short tales that make up this novel are intriguing and beautifully written, but take too long to reach the story's heart, the narrator's struggle to come of age and discover his sexuality in a hostile environment. When the narrator's father catches him dancing like a girl, he remarks: 'Goddamn, I got me a pretty one.' From this point the story picks up momentum, ending on a powerful note, as Torres ratchets up the consequences of being different. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful. It resembles no other book I've read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice." Michael Cunningham
"In language brilliant, poised and pure, We the Animals tells about family love as it is felt when it is frustrated or betrayed or made to stand in the place of too many other needed things, about how precious it becomes in these extremes, about the terrible sense of loss when it fails under duress, and the joy and dread of realizing that there really is no end to it." Marilynne Robinson
"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. Its heartbreaking. Its beautiful. It resembles no other book Ive read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice." Michael Cunningham
"Some books quicken your pulse. Some slow it. Some burn you inside and send you tearing off to find the author to see who made this thing that can so burn you and quicken you and slow you all at the same time. A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again, and know exactly what I mean." Dorothy Allison
"We the Animals snatches the reader by the scruff of the heart, tight as teeth, and shakes back and forth — between the human and the animal, the housed and the feral, love and violence, mercy and wrath — and leaves him in the wilderness, ravished by its beauty. It is an indelible and essential work of art." Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers
About the Author
Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York, where this novel is set. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.
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