WE THE ANIMALS by Justin Torres
Kirkus Star

WE THE ANIMALS

KIRKUS REVIEW

An exquisitely crafted debut novel—subtle, shimmering and emotionally devastating.

Those whose memories of contemporary literature extend a quarter century might be tempted to compare this with Susan Minot’s Monkeys (1986), another short, elliptical debut novel about family dynamics that received rapturous reviews upon publication. Yet this is a different novel, and a better one, about a different sort of family and a narrator’s discovery of how he is both a part of them and apart from them. The dedication—“For my mother, my brothers and my father and for Owen”—suggests that the narrator’s rites of passage reflect the author’s own, that this is a novel that probes deep, even painful truths. The narrator is the youngest of three sons of a white, Brooklyn mother and a Puerto Rican father, who became parents in their teens. Like the title suggests, the first-person narration initially might as well be plural, for the narrator and his older brothers Manny and Leon resemble “a three-torsoed beast,” scrounging for sustenance and meaning amid the tumultuous relationship of their parents, one that the boys can barely understand (though sometimes they intuit more than the narrator can articulate). Their bond provides what little defense they have against their mother’s emotional instability and their father’s unsteady employment and fidelity. They are, like some of the most exhilarating writing, “wild and loose and free.” Yet the narrative voice is a marvel of control—one that reflects the perceptions and limitations of a 7-year-old in language that suggests someone older is channeling his younger perspective. In short chapters that stand alone yet ultimately achieve momentum, the narrator comes to terms with his brothers, his family and his sexuality, separating the “I” from the “we” and suffering the consequences. Ultimately, the novel has a redemptive resonance—for the narrator, for the rest of the fictional family and for the reader as well.

Upon finishing, readers might be tempted to start again, not wanting to let it go.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-57672-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2011




NEW AND NOTABLE FICTION FOR SEPTEMBER:

FictionFEAST DAY OF FOOLS by James Lee Burke
by James Lee Burke
Sci-FiPROSPERO REGAINED by L. Jagi Lamplighter
by L. Jagi Lamplighter
FictionGODDESS OF VENGEANCE by Jackie Collins
by Jackie Collins
MysteryNEW YORK TO DALLAS by J.D. Robb
by J.D. Robb
FictionTHE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
by Erin Morgenstern

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieBest Gay Stories 2013 by Steve Berman
by Steve Berman
FictionTHEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris
by Joshua Ferris
FictionEVERLASTING LANE by Andrew Lovett
by Andrew Lovett
FictionTHE ADULTS by Alison Espach
by Alison Espach
FictionROOM by Emma Donoghue
by Emma Donoghue