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The God of Animals: A Novel

by

The God of Animals: A Novel Cover

 

Staff Pick

Alice Winston is one of the most likable characters I've come across in a long time; smart, tough, and intuitive beyond her years, her voice is both utterly realistic and absolutely captivating. Aryn Kyle's extraordinary debut novel treats the reader to a whole host of such creations; even the more minor characters are deeply felt and convincingly flawed. Kyle's prose, too, is gorgeous, self-assured without being showy; The God of Animals is a classic coming-of-age tale by an author that should not be missed.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From an award-winning and talented young novelist comes one of the most exciting fiction debuts in years: a breathtaking and beautiful novel set on a horse ranch in small-town Colorado.

When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles — a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing to help her father mend their family and the ranch.

To make ends meet, the Winstons board the pampered horses of rich neighbors, and for the first time Alice confronts the power and security that class and wealth provide. As her family and their well-being become intertwined with the lives of their clients, Alice is drawn into an adult world of secrets and hard truths, and soon discovers that people — including herself — can be cruel, can lie and cheat, and every once in a while, can do something heartbreaking and selfless. Ultimately, Alice and her family must weather a devastating betrayal and a shocking, violent series of events that will test their love and prove the power of forgiveness.

A wise and astonishing novel about the different guises of love and the often steep tolls on the road to adulthood, The God of Animals is a haunting, unforgettable debut.

Review:

"Some people seem fated to live in untenable situations. In this beautiful first novel, Alice Winston, 12 years old, has grown up in one. She lives in a town in the Western American desert, which — although it can be exquisite — doesn't always take kindly to the existence of humans. Her mother has been a victim of something like postpartum depression for as long as Alice can remember, and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"This is a very impressive debut....A powerful tale, from a writer with real promise, of a girl coming of age amid a dying way of life." Booklist

Review:

"Kyle writes an original coming-of-age story in a subtle, but strong voice. The characters are rich and pure, and you come to know them as complete people....This is a debut to make many veteran writers jealous. The story will stun you with its climax." Rocky Mountain News

Review:

"Growing pains and the loss of innocence on a desert ranch....A talented writer's lyrical but oppressive first work." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Kyle has created an adolescent voice that is charming and authentic." Library Journal

Review:

"A memorable novel gracefully compares and contrasts the vast landscapes of the human condition....To find these elements expertly handled in a debut novel — as they are in The God of Animals — is reason for readers to rejoice." USA Today

Review:

"It's a pretty volatile mix that does, as promised, explode, though in a way I never expected. Despite the jagged ups and downs of Kyle's prose, I read this straight through, never leaving my chair. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"The God of Animals is a book with a strong bloodline: Jayne Anne Phillips's Machine Dreams, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, with their hard-luck families and wise, weary girl narrators. But the confidence, and the congratulations, belong to Kyle alone." Charlotte Observer

Review:

"As Walter Mosley has pointed out, the conventions of the coming-of-age novel are as deeply ingrained as those of detective fiction. Thankfully, The God of Animals turns out to be smarter than most....If the ending isn't as gratifying...I was still glad to take the ride." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"Aryn Kyle's The God of Animals is a moving, beautifully crafted novel about families, horses, love, death, class in America, and serious weather. Narrated by a twelve-year-old girl, it still contains a full adult measure of betrayal and desire and complex joy, and has a terrifying momentum by the end. It's a wonderful book." Maile Meloy, author of Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter

Review:

"No novel in recent memory has captured the West so well. Kyle is an absolute discovery, her book a perfect read." Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Video

About the Author

Aryn Kyle graduated from the University of Montana writing program. In 2004 her short story "Foaling Season," now the first chapter of this novel, won a National Magazine Award for Fiction for The Atlantic Monthly. Kyle spent most of her childhood in Grand Junction, Colorado, and now lives in Missoula, Montana.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

geogguru, July 16, 2008 (view all comments by geogguru)
I chose this book because it is the Sisters branch of the Deschutes Public Library book for this month. I am not sure why they chose it, but I am SO GLAD that I took their interest in it as a recommendation. I loved reading it -- twice.

I have taught middle school, so smiled when she got the girls' ever-changing friendships just right. I "knew" the cheerleaders, the twins. the advanced class students. It all felt familiar. Even the teacher.

(In the second read, I always notice more about a book's treatment of geography. This one is wonderfully accurate.)
Thanks, Sisters!
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(10 of 19 readers found this comment helpful)
lsumner, June 27, 2008 (view all comments by lsumner)
This book is not about every little girl's dream of owning her very own pony. With its brutal honesty it is more likely the book every little girl should read before being allowed to have a horse. As a girl who grew up in a small town, showing horses and competing, I loved how this book struck at the heart of what that is really like. I loved how it defined the boundaries between people who grew up working with horses and people who have them as a hobby.
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(12 of 21 readers found this comment helpful)
patresa1, June 18, 2008 (view all comments by patresa1)
Such a wonderful book. A beautiful -- but harsh -- story about a wise and practical young girl making sense of the brutalities of the world as they are demonstrated in the business of and those involved with breaking and boarding horses.

I'm so impressed with this author. Character development was dead on. I loved that each of the characters evolved and displayed layers. Kyle did not rely on 1-dimensional archetypes to carry her story. Alice, her father, her sister, Mr. Delmar, the women who board at the ranch, Sheila who trains... they all had great range and depth -- heartbending human-ness -- beautifully scripted in the plain subtleties of Kyle's writing.

I highly recommend this book. But I will warn animal lovers that there are scenes that are very difficult to get through. It was not gratuitous, however. Every element of the story was carefully crafted into the storyline, the landscape, and the overarching philosophical/spiritual themes (as I perceived them to be, anyway).

Really fantastic read.
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(6 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781416533245
Author:
Kyle, Aryn
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Author:
Kyle, Aryn
Subject:
General
Subject:
Colorado
Subject:
Ranches
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Bildungsromans
Publication Date:
March 2007
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
305
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Coming of Age

The God of Animals: A Novel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 305 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781416533245 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Alice Winston is one of the most likable characters I've come across in a long time; smart, tough, and intuitive beyond her years, her voice is both utterly realistic and absolutely captivating. Aryn Kyle's extraordinary debut novel treats the reader to a whole host of such creations; even the more minor characters are deeply felt and convincingly flawed. Kyle's prose, too, is gorgeous, self-assured without being showy; The God of Animals is a classic coming-of-age tale by an author that should not be missed.

"Review" by , "This is a very impressive debut....A powerful tale, from a writer with real promise, of a girl coming of age amid a dying way of life."
"Review" by , "Kyle writes an original coming-of-age story in a subtle, but strong voice. The characters are rich and pure, and you come to know them as complete people....This is a debut to make many veteran writers jealous. The story will stun you with its climax."
"Review" by , "Growing pains and the loss of innocence on a desert ranch....A talented writer's lyrical but oppressive first work."
"Review" by , "Kyle has created an adolescent voice that is charming and authentic."
"Review" by , "A memorable novel gracefully compares and contrasts the vast landscapes of the human condition....To find these elements expertly handled in a debut novel — as they are in The God of Animals — is reason for readers to rejoice."
"Review" by , "It's a pretty volatile mix that does, as promised, explode, though in a way I never expected. Despite the jagged ups and downs of Kyle's prose, I read this straight through, never leaving my chair. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "The God of Animals is a book with a strong bloodline: Jayne Anne Phillips's Machine Dreams, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, with their hard-luck families and wise, weary girl narrators. But the confidence, and the congratulations, belong to Kyle alone."
"Review" by , "As Walter Mosley has pointed out, the conventions of the coming-of-age novel are as deeply ingrained as those of detective fiction. Thankfully, The God of Animals turns out to be smarter than most....If the ending isn't as gratifying...I was still glad to take the ride."
"Review" by , "Aryn Kyle's The God of Animals is a moving, beautifully crafted novel about families, horses, love, death, class in America, and serious weather. Narrated by a twelve-year-old girl, it still contains a full adult measure of betrayal and desire and complex joy, and has a terrifying momentum by the end. It's a wonderful book."
"Review" by , "No novel in recent memory has captured the West so well. Kyle is an absolute discovery, her book a perfect read."
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