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We the Animals: A novel [Kindle Edition]

Justin Torres
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this groundbreaking debut, Justin Torres plunges us into the chaotic heart of one family, the intense bonds of three brothers, and the mythic effects of this fierce love on the people we must become.

"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It resembles no other book I’ve read.”—Michael Cunningham

"A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again." —Dorothy Allison

"Rumbles with lyric dynamite . . . Torres is a savage new talent." —Benjamin Percy, Esquire

"A fiery ode to boyhood . . . A welterweight champ of a book." —NPR, Weekend Edition

"A tremendously gifted writer whose highly personal voice should excite us in much the same way that Raymond Carver’s or Jeffrey Eugenides’s voice did when we first heard it." —Washington Post

"A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt." —O, The Oprah Magazine

"The communal howl of three young brothers sustains this sprint of a novel . . . A kind of incantation." —The New Yorker


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: We the Animals, Justin Torres's sparse debut novel--at just 125 pages--is brimming with delicate stories of family, of growing up, of facing reality, and of delaying it. Narrated by the youngest son of a Puerto Rican father and white mother from Brooklyn raising their three young sons in upstate New York, the novel is comprised of vignettes detailing moments spent in the eye of the ferocious bubble of home. Torres paints a large picture through diminutive strokes, evoking envy for the couple’s passion and fear for just how easily that passion turns to rage. The brothers wrestle, fight, cry, and laugh as their family is torn and repaired over and over again. Torres’s prose is fierce, grabbing hold of the reader and allowing him inside the wrenching, whirlwind of a life lived intensely. --Alexandra Foster

Review

''We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful. It resembles no other book I've read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice.'' --Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

''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, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

''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

''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, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

''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

Product Details

  • File Size: 772 KB
  • Print Length: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005ENZ6KM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,100 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Was on Its Way to the Year's Best July 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book was well on its way to one of my year's best. It is a stirring and touching memoir novella of a family not so uncommon. The parents entered parenthood as teenagers. She gave birth at ages 14, 15 and 17. The mother works the graveyard shift at a brewery and the father works when he can. This is a saga of kids (ages 7, 9 and 10) growing up in poverty with parents who were probably never ready to be parents. The story has all the manic swings of emotion that comes with such a family. Mr. Torres captures the love, the fear and the violence in all their permutations in a unique and terrific style. The accounts of the family can be breath-taking, for good and for bad.

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.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Language Blast for the Reader August 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's rare that I read a book without occasionally skipping a page or two of long-winded description. It's even more rare that I am able to finish a book--read it cover to cover--in a noisy waiting area while small children scream about ice cream and machinery whines in the background. We the Animals is the book that broke my mold.

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.
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75 of 90 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Boys of Mango Street August 2, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Reading Justin Torres's WE THE ANIMALS, I couldn't help but think of Sandra Cisneros's THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. In fact, my hunch is that this is Torres's version of that book moved to Brooklyn and written from the point of view of a boy. From vignette to vignette, you piece together the picture, until finally, at 125 slim pages, your editors consider it enough to be coined a "novel." No, Torres does not surpass his mentor, but he has his poetic moments. Sometimes these moments fail and become "workshop" moments, wherein you sense the lineage (in this case, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, among others) of the author and how it makes the words smell of the writing workshop copying machine, but other times the writing actually comes alive.

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.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Should Be Winning Literary Awards August 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I heard Justin Torres read from this book on "The Diane Rehm Show" (NPR), I knew I had to buy it and read it immediately. In fact I read it in a single sitting because I just could not put it down. By the way, it is a very short book, a small book, with a very big theme.
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome read!!
Published 19 days ago by Michael G. Muller
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intensely Told Story of a Chikdhood Gone Wrong
The voice of the narrator was strong and convincing. His story was told simply, but with a clarity and intensity that drew me in completely. I couldnt stop reading. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Different and edgy
This was required reading for a college class. Torres writes in a refreshingly different style, and the book is a good read. Not my favorite, but still a good read.
Published 2 months ago by BeckyW
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Debut
At a spare 125 pages, this novella tells the story of three boys growing up in rural New York. Their is father a Puerto Rican who is hard and sometimes cruel to both the boys and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sara W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written quick read
You can read it in half a day, but you'll think about it for half a year. Or at least I did.
Published 3 months ago by M. Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, Heartbreaking, Lovely
I purchased and read this novel because the author was a guest at my college. I usually read several books at a time, switching between them for variety, but this was one of the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by C. Selleck
2.0 out of 5 stars ok
The ending was horrible, what happened to the boy, because he is gay they commit him? I was disappointed to the point where I
won't recommend.
Published 3 months ago by Shannon Alarcon
4.0 out of 5 stars Was Ready To Love It
I really enjoyed the beautiful prose and skillful storytelling for the first third of the book. But when it came time to wrap things up, it seems like Torres got overexcited. Read more
Published 4 months ago by H. Shafi
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
It is an amazing book. I purchased it because I saw it as required reading for a class that I want to take, I read it in a day. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Caleb Rehberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and Powerfully Affecting
Wow what an original novel. It gripped me from the first sentence and didn't ever let go. I'm looking forward to Mr. Torres's next book.
Published 4 months ago by Jody
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