Tuesday, August 05, 2008

God of Animals

by Aryn Kyle

Set on a broken down horse farm in Colorado, this is a coming of age story of a twelve year old girl, Alice, and her very dysfunctional family. I cannot say that I enjoyed reading this book but I still thought is was very well done. I didn’t enjoy it simply because of the cruelty to the horses that was portrayed. As a young child I discovered that stories with animals often involved the death of an animal and I refused to read animal stories or watch animal movies. I generally still adhere to that policy. I read this book because it was the selection for my book group. One of the reasons that I enjoy my book group is that it gets me to read things that I wouldn’t ordinarily read on my own which I believe is a good thing. This book certainly was reading outside of my comfort zone.

Despite my discomfort, I found the characters very engaging and I was anxious to see how their stories played out. There is the mother that never comes down from her bedroom. The handsome but distant father who is chasing after his dreams and trying to keep the ranch afloat. The missing older sister who always won all the blue ribbons in the horse shows and attracted lucrative clients to the stable who ran off with a rodeo cowboy. The grandparents that show up in their RV and in a whirlwind of activity get things going in the right direction for the family and then just as suddenly depart. The catfish, the wealthy ladies who board their extremely expensive horses at the stable, who mostly sip cocktails and gossip instead of actually ride. Patty Jo who tries to distance herself from the catfish and is more interested in the handsome father. And last but not least, Polly a drowned girl from Alice’s class and the English teacher that becomes Alice’s confidant in late night phone marathons. With this odd cast of characters Alice is trying to do the best she can to grow up and take care of her family with absolutely no help or guidance from any adults in her life.

While some in my book group found the story depressing and didn’t like any of the characters, I thought the author’s portrayal of the characters, while not sympathetic, rang true. It is not a happily every after story but I suspect that it is more true to life than we would like to think. I enjoyed the author’s use of language and found the plot and characters extremely well done. This was the author’s first novel and I would be interested to read her future works if she doesn’t include any animals.

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