Book Review: We the Animals

We The Animals  By: Justin Torres

There is a new writer in town and he is definitely wearing a shiny badge.
Justin Torres, a mere 30 something writer from New York has walked into the literary world and turned it on its axis.
We The Animals a 128 page book of such elegance, honesty and heart wrenching prose; one has to marvel at such a finely written book.

The book is told in snapshots of the lives of three closed bonded brothers, their abusive Puerto Rican Father and manic depressive Mother. Chapter One starts with, “We wanted more” and by the conclusion of this book, the reader is left saying those exact same words.

The story is told through the eyes of one of the brothers with each chapter giving us a glimpse into their world as all three try to navigate the terrain they have been forced to live within. The brothers are close beyond measure and at times they seem to be of one entity. One particular moment in the chapter aptly titled “Seven”, it is the narrators seventh birthday and he is witnessing the aftermath of his mother’s bruised and bloodied face dealt from his Fathers’ hands.

“I grabbed hold of both of her cheeks and pulled her forward for a kiss. The pain traveled sharp and fast to her eyes, pain opened up her pupils into big black disks. She ripped her face from mine and shoved me away from her, to the floor. She cussed me and Jesus, and the tears dropped, and I was seven.”

We the Animals is a magnificently written book about childhood, how our early bonds form us and finally growing up. While some parts of this book may be difficult to read, Justin writes with his finger on pulses of the moment making it go down comfortable and knowing.

“They were gathered in the front room, and the air reeked of grief. The force of their eight eyes pushed me backward toward the door;never had I been looked at with such ferocity. Everything easy between me and my brothers and my mother and my father was lost.”

Justin is a gifted writer who has won the acclaim and respect of even the stodgiest of literary circles and I can’t wait to see what he next brings to our bookshelves.

For any future or fledging writers, this book is a fine example of how a good story is told. Read it, take notes and hope by some comet in the sky your words can land on the page like his.

(We The Animals was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

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