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We The Animals...

~Friday~  Back in Wednesday's entry, I mentioned I'd finished the first book in the 27 Must Have Queer Summer Reads, We the Animals, and that I'd share my thoughts on it in a later post.

Well this is it.

So, this is the introduction to the book in Wikipedia:

We the Animals is the debut novel by the American author Justin Torres, published in 2011. It is a bildungsroman about three wild brothers who live a rough and tumble childhood in rural upstate New York. Their father is Puerto Rican and their mother is white. The youngest brother is the protagonist and eventually breaks away from the rest of the family at the end of the novella.

From that description, I was grateful to learn the word bildungsroman, although it's not one that's going to easily come back to me when I want to use it. I will, however, remember that there is a single word for "a coming of age story."

My thoughts and observations of the book:

  • Before encountering each on this list, I'd never heard of this book or this author.

  • If this book is indeed autobiographical, oh my god, what a childhood this author had.

  • Although I'm usually tuned in to these type of things, I must admit that I didn't at all notice this criticism in a New York Times review: "One of Mr. Torres’s few literary tics is a slight overuse of the semicolon in the early chapters; perhaps it’s catching?"

  • There were times in this book that I couldn't tell if things were really happening, or rather, I found it hard to believe that they were happening. An example of this was when the three boys were in the bathtub and the parents were in the bathroom, too, and the parents started having (admittedly trying to be discreet) sex right then and there. That scene is actually mentioned in the review, too, described this way:
     
    Scenes that thrum with violence can suddenly turn tender too, and the brutality of their father’s behavior isn’t the whole story. In one striking scene he gives the boys a loving bath before suddenly turning his attention to his wife. The boys, still huddled in the tub, cower in silent awe and confusion as their parents begin to make love.

  • I liked that fact that one of the brothers' name is "Manny," as that's my dad name, short for Manuel.

  • I loved the scene when the family needs a new car, and the father comes home with a pick-up truck. The whole time I'm thinking, "Oh my god. That is so impractical." The reaction and action that ensues covers the gamut, highlighting the pragmatic versus the dreamer, the live for the present versus the plan for the future, and all of the hopes and dreams in between.

  • I liked the fact that although the protagonist—the narrator—in this story is gay, and it is of course an aspect of his "coming of age," it really comes across as being in the background of this story.

This was a good start to trying to get through this list. It was short, easy-to-read, and well-written.

I have requested the second one, The Velvet Rage, from the Wake County Public Library. I anticipate it being available for pick-up on Monday, June 17.

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