J Priddy, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by J Priddy)
THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle (Scribner, 2007) was lent to me by a co-worker. I brought it home for the summer and came across it just the other day, not expecting to love it, to carry it around with me for two days, to laugh and cry and to lose myself in the story of “dreams that never come true” and the terrible truth of what does. Alice Winston is twelve, living on a horse ranch in Colorado, and trying to understand everything. The book begins: “Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy.” Alice is not the show rider her sister was, her mother lies alone in bed all day, and she’s not popular at school, and Polly Cain was never her friend, but by the end of this debut novel, competitive riding, her sister, her ghost of a mother and the ghost of Polly Cain will turn her life along a path she never saw coming.
cheekylilbint, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by cheekylilbint)
This poignant coming-of-age tale follows 11-year-old Alice as she struggles with feelings of loneliness and mortality. After her elder sister elopes with a cowboy, Alice becomes the sole person available to help her father raise and train horses. At the same time, she is introduced to the suddeness of death, the seduction of having a shared secret, and the feeling that you will never get out from under someone else's shadow. The story is told with the steady rhythm of and old tale relayed on the porch on a hot summer evening. While this same rhythm means that at points the story slightly drags, ultimately Aryn Kyle draws you in and you feel for Alice as she learns how painful growing up can sometimes be.
Scribner Book Company -
"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."
by Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli,
"No novel in recent memory has captured the West so well. Kyle is an absolute discovery, her book a perfect read."
by Maile Meloy, author of Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter,
"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."
by Library Journal,
"Kyle has created an adolescent voice that is charming and authentic."
"A powerful tale, from a writer with real promise, of a girl coming of age amid a dying way of life."
by USA Today,
"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."
by Rocky Mountain News,
"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."
by Charlotte Observer,
"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."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"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."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Growing pains and the loss of innocence on a desert ranch....A talented writer's lyrical but oppressive first work."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"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)"
by The Boston Globe,
"[A] first novel that's so strong, startling, and moving, that it's a thoroughbred from the first page... In stark, gorgeous prose, Kyle tunnels into the dark heart of the connections between people and place.... The God of Animals does what the best fiction does — it creates a whole living, breathing world and unfolds it in front of us, granting us entry into a place that, like this author, is impossible to forget."
"Aryn Kyle's stunning debut is a wry and moving look at a disappearing way of life...an astonishingly assured debut... powerfully understated, ruefully funny... it's early Annie Proulx to whom she bears particular comparison."
In her stunning debut, Kyle produces an emotionally powerful coming-of-age story that deftly and movingly captures not only the complexity of love, loss, and human relationships but also the fierce and powerful bond between horses and humans.
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.
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