Monday, September 5, 2011
Book Review: "We the Animals" by Justin Torres
Running just under 150 pages, told in a spare, staccato style, this book packs a real emotional wallop. This is the story of three brothers frenetically racing through life, playing and fighting with each other, and at times tiptoing around their parents' tumultuous marriage. Sometimes humorous, sometimes depressing, and sometimes disturbing, the book is a series of relatively short chapters which examine a particular incident or crisis. At its heart this is a story about how family dynamics can leave you vulnerable, and how that vulnerability can affect you throughout your life.
This book gripped me from the start, and as fast as I read, I was done with it relatively quickly. The book is narrated by the youngest brother, so everything was viewed through his eyes, which was effective although at times somewhat irritating. I thought the book was at its best when the narrator recounted his parents' relationship as well as the relationship he and his brothers had with their parents. Torres threw in a big surprise at the end, which although tremendously powerful, frustrated me a bit, because I never saw it coming, and it didn't feel true to the story. (However, since the book is apparently semi-autobiographical, I guess it's the way it really happened in Torres' life.) All in all, this book definitely moved me, and I look forward to seeing Torres' career proceed.