Thursday, March 14, 2019

We the Animals by Justin Torres

3 Stars

Since my daily commute is so short and I only listen to audio books in the car Monday-Friday, I’m always struggling to find a selection that works for me. When I saw my friend Matthew’s review of We the Animals, I thought it might be a good fit. I also thought it was a young adult book for some reason, but soon realized . . . . .

While the characters in this story are children, the content most definitely is not and focuses on growing up in a poor, mixed-race, abusive family in Brooklyn. Confession: I still thought it was a YA story until the parents had sex in front of their children, at which point . . . .

And logged onto Goodreads to confirm that this was not a children’s book.

This was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the vignette style of storytelling that presented snapshots of time rather than a flowing story – more so probably due to this being such a short book. I appreciate storytellers who don’t pull punches and are as brutal as necessary for the subject matter that they are presenting. But I don’t like writing that doesn’t feel effortless and Justin Torres most certainly was trying VERY HARD here. Almost like it was the last requirement before receiving his Masters in Fine Arts. The timeline also was hard to wrap my brain around. The reader is informed at the beginning that the children are “stair steps” of a sort with the youngest (our narrator) being around 7. By the end of the book (and the couple of big “shock and awe” entries which focus on a completely different subject matter than the first 80-90% of the book), I thought that same child might be around 16. There aren’t really any “in between” sort of selections to indicate age progression – you just make the hop. That was jarring enough, but it would make the older brothers of adult age and yet they are still present in the family home. I didn’t buy that one bit and it made other moments jump back to the forefront of my mind that had rang out as inauthentic as well.

In the end, this falls under . . . . .

And receives a satisfactory 3 Star rating.

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