Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We the Animals; Justin Torres

Title:  We the Animals
Author:  Justin Torres
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Edition: audio
Reader: Frankie Alvarez (very good)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 2/21/2012
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

 We the Animals is a coming-of-age story about (3) young brothers of mixed-race parents, growing up in a poor, and abusive home in upstate New York.  It's one of those rare stories that was just so well written, it is sure to stay with me for a long while.  Unabridged on just (3) cds, or under (150) pages in print, this story packs a punch. 

The story is narrated by the youngest brother, just 7, whose name is never revealed, a boy who seems to adore his older brothers just  9, and 10, when the story begins.  Told over a period of (6) years,the novel covers significant childhood experiences, often jaw-dropping, that the brothers witnessed or experienced while living with their mixed-race parents, "Ma and Paps". Parents who married and became parents when they were still in their teens.

Paps is often unemployed and takes his anger out on his family.  Ma works nights at a brewery, is often depressed and distant.  The parents fight, kiss and make up, fight, over and over again while the boys witness it all. The house is often without food, so the brothers scrounge for scraps and run around wild and unsupervised. The title seems so appropriate -- We the Animals, is brief, but intense. 

" And when our Paps came home, we got spankings. Our little round butt cheeks were tore up: red, raw, leather-whipped. We knew there was something on the other side of pain, on the other side of the sting. Prickly heat radiated upward from our thighs and backsides, fire consumed our brains, but we knew that there was something more, someplace our Paps was taking us with all this. We knew, because he was meticulous, because he was precise, because he took his time. He was awakening us; he was leading us somewhere beyond burning and ripping, and you couldn’t get there in a hurry."
 It seems so inappropriate to say I enjoyed this book, because it left me with a feeling of sadness.  It made me think of just how many children grow up with this level of dysfunction in their lives.  Readers who gravitate toward coming of age stories, especially ones about children growing up in an abusive and highly dysfunctional home, should appreciate the writing talents of this new author.  The only reason that I gave this book a 4.5/5 instead of a 5/5 was because I was not thrilled with the ending.


  1. I've read that this book is somewhat autobiographical. The ending shocked me and left me feeling like I'd been punched in the gut.

  2. I have been interested in this one for some time now, and think that although it sounds rather dark, that it would be eye-opening for me. I know what you mean about not really enjoying it per se, but being interested and involved. This was a really great review, and I will be looking for this one.

  3. The ending was not what I wanted, but after thinking about it, it wasn't surprising either. Yes, I heard an interview with the author and he said that a lot of it was auto-biographical, which makes it even more heartbreaking. He is quite the personality on Facebook though.

  4. Sounds like a powerful read that will stay with you.

  5. This book got a lot of pre-publication buzz within the industry. It is on my tbr pile, and I'm hoping to read it soon.

  6. I want to read this one!! I just may do the audio route for it too!!! I must find out the ending!

  7. I just picked this one up at the library. I'm glad to hear you loved it. Perhaps I'll sneak it in this weekend!

  8. I'd read this in a heartbeat. It sounds really touching and worthwhile. Terrific review!

  9. This sounds fabulous, and I love shorter books right now!

  10. Fantastic style of writing. It seems to me like a book that I would enjoy reading .... and to be left with a sense of something after reading (whether sadness, joy, whatever)is an important element of reading, for me.

    Thank you!

    Look at my book on my Friday post ... for, rather than about, children, but just to look might interest you.

  11. This looks like one I should read or listen to, and there's no excuse that it's too long! From your thoghts and the other comments I'm a little worried about the ending!

  12. This sounds like a very powerful read.

  13. I'm so intrigued with this one, but haven't made a point to get it. Thanks for the push! :)


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