- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (February 2, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544370139
- ISBN-13: 978-0544370135
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beasts and Children Paperback – February 2, 2016
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
The monkeys, seals, elephants, pangolins, sunfish, and domestic pets of Parker's wonderful collection of linked stories offer sublime metaphors and splendid foils for the floundering adults, as prone to moments of astonishing cruelty as the beasts are to sudden vengeance. Characters include sisters Carline and Cissy Bowman, whose family spends a fortune to ransom the father out of Thailand in "The White Elephant"; another pair of sisters, Jill and Maizie, are daughters of diplomats stationed in Ching Mai, and who venture out of their compound in "Rainy Season." Other stories involve a road trip to catch a lover ("The Balcony"); Jill and Maizie visiting a Thai orphanage ("Endangered Creatures"), and Carline and Cissy dealing with memories of their mother's bout with cancer ("Catastrophic Molt"). More than the dissatisfied and guilty adults, Parker's sympathies lie with the children, who with preternatural calm and piercing devotion survive early formative ruptures that will haunt them. Parker's sentences are clear, polished, finely-faceted gems, the images incandescent and precise, the tone balanced between the hypnotic and the absurd. Drawing out the implacable connections between beauty and danger, between love and pain, each individual story delivers a final punch of surprise both unpremeditated and yet perfect, "whole and alive in the way that only children and animals seem to be." It's to Parker's credit that the collection feels as complete as a novel, a journey transporting readers from the exotic to the familiar, leaving them blinking, dry-mouthed, and changed. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Feb.)\n
From School Library Journal
In America, a lonely immigrant mother drives her car into a river, drowning herself and her two children. In Thailand, a teenage girl convinces her younger sister to cruise and drink with grown men. A father forces his son to kill a kitten, desiring only that the boy "be smarter than me." Gruesome? Perhaps. Indelible? Definitely. Readers may not immediately experience a taste for the darkness of some of the family relationships, but after a few stories, they will bite down hard. Parker writes too well to be forgotten and displays a talent for unearthing aches readers have attempted to bury. After Jill, the neglected daughter of a diplomat, finds herself in the apartment of an opiate addict, her remorse is so stark that many teenagers will strongly identify ("She understands this about herself—that her shame will endanger her again and again."). The pieces share characters and are connected. It's comforting to meet the characters again, but there's also the pain of realizing how badly their lives turned out. How do young people recover from the traumas of childhood? Why do some adults carry their pain so deeply? There are no comfortable answers, and this is not a collection for those who cry easily. VERDICT A collection for teens who love to look at the darker side of life. It will have a special lure for ex-pats and will command a strong audience in international schools.—Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY
Top customer reviews
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Yet, I am very glad I read these stories and was illuminated by them. As difficult as they are, they are beautifully rendered and the characters are vivid. Each story contains scenes of such suspense for characters in dire peril (physical and/or moral) that my heart-rate got an aerobic work-out reading this collection.There are six main characters; two sets of sisters, Carline and Cecilia who grow up in Texas, and Jill and Maizie who grow up in Thailand. Carline and Cecilia have a cousin, Danny, whose horrible mother will give you chills, and Jerry, who at six is abandoned by his mother, and raised by his father, an animal control officer who takes him on a "ride along", the ramifications of which reverberate through his life.
I certainly will be looking for more from Amy Parker! This is her debut short-story collection and I greatly admire her unflinching storytelling. There are passages and dialogue that made me wince. Brava! Ms. Parker, because these passages and this dialogue is realistic. At points I can imagine her editor asking: "Are you SURE you want Jill to use that word? " Are you SURE you want Jerry to do that?" "Are you sure you want that to happen to that animal?" If that conversation occurred, I'm glad Parker prevailed. If it DIDN'T happen, I applaud her editors and publishers for the guts to let Parker's voice resonate. I highly recommend this collection with the caveat that it not for the faint of heart.
In general, the plots of these stories are better than the characterizations or especially the dialogue. The dialogue is stilted and feels like something that would never be spoken, like wordy descriptions. It made me laugh a bit that a few times, even characters in the stories remark how oddly others talk, as in one time that a Bowman daughter says her mother talks like a caricature. The stories verge at times into extended metaphors that are a little difficult to make out, such as that of the killing of a white elephant in the story of that title.
The stories I like better in terms of the writing, the ones with a child as a narrator, tended toward being quite disturbing, especially in that they depicted sometimes cruel treatment of animals. This wasn't gratuitous---it explained parts of the narrator's personality---but it was still a little hard to read.
I feel like this is a case of a talented writer needing to loosen up a bit and write stories that are more relaxed, in a way---less loaded with hard to read life-changing moments and more real to life in setting, dialogue and outcome. If you are bothered by any harm coming to animals, I would avoid this book, otherwise, it's probably somewhat a matter of taste how you will feel about it.