Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
We the Animals Hardcover – August 30, 2011
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
—Michael Cunningham "Some books quicken your pulse. Some slow it. Some burn you inside and send you tearing off to find the author to see who made this thing that can so burn you and quicken you and slow you all at the same time. A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again, and know exactly what I mean."
—Dorothy Allison "In language brilliant, poised and pure, We the Animals tells about family love as it is felt when it is frustrated or betrayed or made to stand in the place of too many other needed things, about how precious it becomes in these extremes, about the terrible sense of loss when it fails under duress, and the joy and dread of realizing that there really is no end to it."
—Marilynne Robinson "We the Animals snatches the reader by the scruff of the heart, tight as teeth, and shakes back and forth—between the human and the animal, the housed and the feral, love and violence, mercy and wrath—and leaves him in the wilderness, ravished by its beauty. It is an indelible and essential work of art."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers "We the Animals marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in American Literature. In an intense coming-of-age story that brings to mind the early work of Jeffrey Eugenides and Sandra Cisneros, Torres's concentrated prose goes down hot like strong liquor. His beautifully flawed characters worked their way into my heart on the very first page and have been there ever since."
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow "We the Animals is a gorgeous, deeply humane book. Every page sings, and every scene startles. I think we'll all be reading Justin Torres for years to come."
—Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight "A strobe light of a story...I wanted more of Torres's haunting word-torn world..."
—New York Times Book Review "Justin Torres' debut novel is a welterweight champ of a book. It's short but it's also taut, elegant, lean — and it delivers a knockout."
—NPR's Weekend Edition "A slender but affecting debut novel by Justin Torres...[a] sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel...The scenes have the jumbled feel of homemade movies spliced together a little haphazardly, echoing the way memory works: moments of fear or excitement sting with bright clarity years later, while the long passages in between dissolve into nothingness. From the patchwork emerges a narrative of emotional maturing and sexual awakening that is in many ways familiar...but is freshened by the ethnicity of the characters and their background, and the blunt economy of Mr. Torres’s writing, lit up by sudden flashes of pained insight."
—New York Times "The communal howl of three young brothers sustains this sprint of a novel, which clocks in at a hundred and twenty-five pages. The boys, who imagine themselves the Musketeers, the Stooges, and the Holy Trinity all at once, are the wisecracking, lamenting chorus who bear witness to their parents’ wild-ride marriage. Ma got pregnant at fourteen—she tells her oldest son she could feel him growing inside her, ‘heart ticking like a bomb'—and now sleeps for days at a time and weeps whenever she tells her children she loves them; Paps, occasionally AWOL, surfaces to deliver meticulous, leisurely spankings. The collage of vignettes is elevated by Torres's twitchy prose, in which the pummel of hard consonants and slant rhymes becomes a kind of incantation: ‘They hunched and they skulked. They jittered. They scratched...They'll flunk. They'll roll one car after another into a ditch.'"
—New Yorker "The best book you'll read this fall...We the Animals, a slim novel—just 144 pages—about three brothers, half white, half Puerto Rican, scrambling their way through a dysfunctional childhood, is the kind of book that makes a career....Torres’s sentences are gymnastic, leaping and twirling, but never fancy for the sake of fancy, always justified by the ferocity and heartbreak and hunger and slap-happy euphoria of these three boys. It’s a coming-of-age novel set in upstate New York that rumbles with lyric dynamite. It’s a knock to the head that will leave your mouth agape. Torres is a savage new talent."
—Esquire "First-time novelist Justin Torres unleashes We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a gorgeous, howling coming-of-age novel that will devour your heart."
—Vanity Fair "A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt. Written in the voice of the youngest of three boys, this partly autobiographical tale evokes the cacophony of a messy childhood—flying trash-bag kites, ransacking vegetable gardens, and smashing tomatoes until pulp runs down the kitchen walls. But despite the din the brothers create, the novel belongs to their mother, who alternates between gruff and matter-of-fact—'loving big boys is different from loving little boys—you’ve got to meet tough with tough.' In stark prose, Torres shows us how one family grapples with a dangerous and chaotic love for each other, as well as what it means to become a man."
—O, the Oprah Magazine "The imagistic power of Justin Torres’ debut, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), exists in inverse proportion to its slim 128 pages. Just try shaking off this novel about three upstate New York brothers whose knockabout childhoods with their Puerto Rican "Paps" and white "Ma" are the narrative equivalent of feral kitties being swung overhead in a burlap bag."
—Elle magazine "A kind of heart-stopping surge of emotion and language in this musical tornado of a novel."
—Pam Houston in More magazine "Justin Torres’ debut novel, We the Animals, does a lot more than just get read. In a mere 124 pages, it shouts, beatboxes and flirts; it lulls only to shock awake; it haunts and creeps and surprises. If Torres’ book were an object, it would be a BB gun spray-painted jungle green. If it were a sound, it would be something like Kanye West circa "808s and Heartbreaks" reinterpreting Maurice Ravel’s "Bolero." Torres, a 31-year-old graduate from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a current Wallace Stegner Fellow, writes in a voice that combines urgency, brutality and huggable cuteness that creates a pungent new voice both endearingly frightening and difficult to categorize."
—Forbes.com "[We the Animals] packs an outsized wallop; it's the skinny kid who surprises you with his intense, frenzied strength and sheer nerve. You pick up the book expecting it to occupy a couple hours of your time and find that its images and tactile prose linger with you days after...what stays with me are the terrible beauty and life force in Torres' primal tale."
—Newsday "That such a young author writes so well in his debut novel seems miraculous. Few books can match the trifecta pulled off in We the Animals: simplicity married to artistry and candor. For this reason, along with others noted here, this book could not be more highly recommended."
—New York Journal of Books "Short sentences. Short chapters. Short book. But wow! What a powerful piece of fiction. Justin Torres’ We the Animals is a tough little novel about three brothers growing up as the neglected, beloved sons of a Puerto Rican father and a white mother who works the graveyard shift in a brewery and sometimes doesn't know what day it is. It's daring and funny and a little scary, and it nails the competitive bond among siblings better than any book in recent memory."
—The Oregonian "Telling the story of three mixedrace brothers growing up in New York state, Justin Torres’ debut novel, We the Animals, is a quick, raw, punchy read....memorable and vivid"
—Dallas Morning News "Here's a first novel that reads like one, not because it's amateurish or unsure of itself—it's neither—but because it's urgent. Urgency in fiction is easily faked—kill off the protagonist's parents in the first sentence, or do away with dependent clauses, or use the second person—but Justin Torres’ We the Animals is actually urgent. Urgent not to tell us anything or to make a particular point, but, like a living thing, to be what it mysteriously needs to be, to fulfill the promises it makes to itself."
—San Francisco Chronicle "Filled with rich detail, tableau-like scenes, and true-to-life little boy adventures, We the Animals is a must-read novel. Torres’ evocative language grips the reader, each scene bringing the boys to life, reminding us of our own childhoods and our struggles to grow into strong men and women."
—San Francisco Book Review "It takes only a single paragraph of Justin Torres’ We the Animals to announce a powerful new voice in literary fiction....This short, sharp shock of a debut novel, based on the author's experiences growing up poor in upstate New York, is like a viscous liquor that both burns and braces."
—Arizona Republic "It’s rare to come across a young writer with a voice whose uniqueness, power and resonance are evident from the very first page, or even the very first paragraph. It does happen every once in a while, though. And it’s happened again, just now, with the publication of We the Animals, a slender, tightly wound debut novel by a remarkable young talent named Justin Torres."
—Washington Post "Justin Torres’s slim volume We the Animals comprises a series of seminal moments from a young boy’s life, which are revealed in brilliant, searing flashes; its relatively few pages contain the arc of an entire childhood...As a debut, We the Animals proves that Torres is not only a novelist of deep empathy, but one with the ability to compress this feeling into prose until only the truest and most essential kernels remain."
—Time Out New York "A slim book can hold volumes. We the Animals, the first novel from Justin Torres, is such a book. Not an ounce of fat on its slight frame, but the story is sinewy. Stong....We the Animals crafts beauty out of despair. From lives so fragmented they threaten to break off into oblivion at any moment, Torres builds a story that is burnished, complete. That takes talent, diligence and more than a little grace."
—Houston Chronicle "We the Animals is a book so meant to break your heart that it should lose its power just on the grounds of being obvious. That it pierces—with an arrow dipped in ache—signals that Justin Torres is a writer to embrace from the start. This is his first novel."
—Newark Star Ledger "Torres has spilled onto the scene, big beating heart in hand. The book is short because it must've been absolutely exhausting to write. But that doesn't matter because you'll read it three times. But most of all, We the Animals will enrapture the literary world, as it should, because of its lyricism. It feels like reading James Agee by lightning strike."
—Arkansas Times "We the Animals conveys the raw honesty of a child trying to figure everything out: hunger, love, loneliness, injustice, sex, the weather, desire, poverty, vulnerability, brutality, abandonment, loyalty, brokenness, yearning, fear, and, maybe, hope. Each chapter is a tiny, carefully crafted vignette, a story both elegant and raw, vibrant and incomplete. Rarely has a writer developed the child's-eye view with such intimate vulnerability and emphatic restraint."
—Bookslut.com "Justin Torres’ first novel, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 144 pages), carries all the balm and hazard of strong waves at high tide. Told through the eyes of the youngest of three brothers, the novel evokes the experience of youth and the struggles of a poor family from Brooklyn living in upstate New York. Through his enveloping and fast-paced prose, Torres bestows his story with a rare generosity and honesty, portraying the family’s jagged love—with all its cruelty, beauty, tenderness, and loyalty—and chronicling the events leading to the family’s calamitous fragmentation."
—ZYZZYVA: The Last Word: West Coast Writers and Artists "Three brothers and a dueling husband and wife are bound by poverty and love in this debut novel from Stegner Fellow Torres...The short tales that make up this novel are intriguing and beautifully written"
—Publishers Weekly "An exquisitely crafted debut novel—subtle, shimmering and emotionally devastating...the narrative voice is a marvel of control—one that reflects the perceptions and limitations of a 7-year-old in language that suggests someone older is channeling his younger perspective. In short chapters that stand alone yet ultimately achieve momentum, the narrator comes to terms with his brothers, his family and his sexuality, separating the "I" from the "we" and suffering the consequences. Ultimately, the novel has a redemptive resonance—for the narrator, for the rest of the fictional family and for the reader as well. Upon finishing, readers might be tempted to start again, not wanting to let it go."
—STARRED Kirkus "Fiercely gorgeous...In a style that reaches the level of poetry, We the Animals is a hymn for what is lost; for what we leave behind and what never leaves us. Belying brevity, Torres has crafted a beast of a book, stretching its paws and flexing its tail, a creature that is simultaneously elegant and ferocious."
—Publishers Lunch "Justin Torres's first-rate prose will leave you gut-socked and breathless, with a lump in your throat...the writing is exquisite, making the painful trip so worthwhile...A touching, frightening story of three boys who grow up amid neglect, poverty, violence and occasional moments of pure, radiant love."
—Shelf Awareness Pro
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month. See our current Editors' Picks.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
But then suddenly in the last 15 pages the gears shift to the adulthood of the youngest child. The shift is incongruous and does not fit. It seemed self-indulgent on the part of the author after he had kept an interesting distance as an adult writing about a seven year old. The ending was terribly disappointing to me. I went from loving this book and rushing to the next page while wishing it to go on for much longer to tremendous disappointment.
The first 90% of the book is so great that it overcomes the ending, so I still recommend it. I am quite sure that there will be some who will love the ending. For me, though, it just did not fit and detracted.
This is not a light little romp, despite its brevity, so be prepared for a raging ride through a mess of a childhood. The three "animals" and their dysfunctional, impaired parents are not your average kids. But, then, Justin Torres is not your average writer. There is something in his words that digs into the reader's spirit, twists around and spits out a direct link to the mind of a child in bizarre circumstances. I felt the childish mind at the other end of the words, and it was an amazing experience. Autobiographies and memoirs try their best to accomplish, often in much longer strings of words, this feat, and most fail. There is something magical in the construction of this little book, and one can only hope that Torres has more like it growing on his hard drive. Painful, beautiful, touching, and funny, We the Animals deserves reading and Torres deserves fandom.
In the beginning we are introduced to a dysfunctional family (de rigueur these days) consisting of a wife-beating Puerto Rican dad ("Paps"), an unpredictable white mother ("Ma") and the Three Musketeers (the boys -- at the book's beginning, ages 7 to 10). The ages are not insignificant. As the tone and voice of this book is often wise and clever, one begins to wonder how the young narrators manage it. I realize that authors often claim it is the "voice of wisdom looking back," but the dialogue portions were a bit advanced, too, and -- in the "narrative dream" -- what was said then was said then.
Early on, Torres utilizes the first-person plural "we" point of view, accenting just how close these brothers are and how they behave (well, mostly misbehave) almost as a single entity. They witness their parents engaging in activities and violence that most of us do not, then show the effects in their own behaviors, all as you'd expect. This is Torres's slant and what gives the book its charm.Read more ›
When Ms. Rehm interview the author, she asked about how much of it was autobiogrpahical. Mr. Torres didn't answer the question directly, but suggested that much of it is based upon the experiences of the author, the youngest of three boys brought up in up-state New York by their Irish-Italian-American mother, a young teenager when the first son was born, and a Brooklyn-raised Puerto Rican. Some is made in the book--call it a grouping of stories if you wish or a loose novel--about the skin tones: the white mother, the dark father with an afro, hinting that he has descended from slaves brought to that island.
I love that this is told from the point of view of the youngest child, the son who mixes it up with his older brothers but is also not quite like them, the one who is afraid to learn to swim, for example.
These people live not exactly in poverty, but you know the parents just don't have a chance of moving beyond where they are both emotionally and economically. "Ma" works in a brewery. "Paps," because of his emotional makeup, doesn't hold jobs any too long. This is, if you will, a story about light (white) and dark (black} with moments of a family with enough love for each other to keep themselves going and yet always the edge of the darkness emerging. In one story Ma refuses to answer the phone. She knows it is her husband. She has feed her sons all she can, all she has: each a bowl of soup and a plate of crackers to be shared. And the phone rings and rings and rings.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautifully told and very honest. I had the pleasure of listening to Justin speak at Napa Valley College where I took a three day seminar.
My initial reaction after finishing this book was to give it one star. Upon further reflection I decided that it deserved at least two for the way it was written. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Raymond Kui
Within its only 128 pages, Justin Torres's, "We the Animals", is filled with captivating, poetic substance, portraying the difficulties of a young boy coming of age in a... Read morePublished 1 month ago by AK
Reading this novel was a whirlwind. It made me feel like I was watching a projector slideshow. Each section was its own photograph, its own moment and together they painted a... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jess
Justin Torres’ We the Animals had my full attention from start to finish. At just 128 pages, I read through the entire novel in one sitting and I highly recommend doing so for... Read morePublished 1 month ago by A.H.
Justin Torres’ slim novel of just 128 pages instantly turns into a treasure box of snapshots. We flip from vignette to vignette, as if shuffling through pages of a family album. Read morePublished 2 months ago by C.F.
We, The Animals by Justin Torres feels like one of those books you either love or you hate. Thankfully, I have to board the love train with this one. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Katherine Zhao
We The Animals is a somewhat autobiographical coming-of-age story of a young boy growing up in an unusual family environment. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer