Monday, July 22, 2013

"The God of Animals" by Aryn Kyle (2007)

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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.

  • An intriguing read. I never thought anything about a horse ranch would be so interesting, but it was, and the pace of the story was perfect for a coming-of-age story.
  • There are so many messages that run deep, and they are reflected through several themes: honesty, death, loss, love, social class... Very poignant and will probably make you remember your awkward preteen years.
  • What always struck me as brilliant was the contrast between adults and the main character, who is only twelve years-old. Despite her very adolescent mindset, she is much more mature and capable than many of the main adult figures in the story.
  • The parents in the story can be so ridiculous sometimes. They make me frustrated as hell, but I suppose that's a good thing. The father has his own reasons for behaving the way he does, and sometimes you can't help feeling a little sorry for him. And the mother is (literally) just too weak, the way some people eventually just become a burden. Her transition from a lively hopeful girl to a reclusive frail woman is notable and heartbreaking.
  • Alice and Sheila's eventual companionship/friendship also buds over time, and I absolutely loved it. Despite the clear differences in temperament and background, the two children, even with their own foibles and troubles, begin to understand and relate to the other better.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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