Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
Date: August 2011
Page Count: 128
5 of 5 starsSynopsis: Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful. Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
From all the books I’ve read in the past, I learned to never judge them by their covers. Its what’s inside the matters. Now after reading We the Animals, I learned to never judge a book by its size either. It’s only about 120 pages, but within those pages is so much story. It’s told from the point of view of the youngest of three brothers, and the hard life they lead with their mother and father. It’s not your normal continuance of a story. Instead, with each passing chapter, we get pieces of their life…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The mother works the graveyard shift and a lot of days, she wakes up not knowing what day or hour it is. The father can’t keep a job, he’s loving to his family but also, at times, abusive and short tempered. This book reads like an autobiography even though it isn’t. The story felt real, as if I were getting a peek into their lives, seeing all the good and bad that comes along with raising a family when you’re young, over worked and always feeling like you’re never going to get ahead in life.
There were times that made me laugh and times when I was angry and upset over the way the father treated his wife and kids. I cried at the sweet moments they all had together. But there were times I cried over the heartbreak and what they had to endure.I watched their story unfold piece by piece, making me believe that there are families out in the world like this. They love their family one minute and hate it the next. Their life sucks. They do the best they can to get by with what the have. It’s life. It’s not everyone’s life, but I think it’s more than we may realize.
Torres writing–it’s stellar! I found my self reread parts, thinking to myself, “Wow!” I don’t know how to describe it. Poetic. Lyrical. Whatever the technical term is, it’s beautiful. Some lines fill you with goodness, or inspiration, while others cut you to the core, and fill you with sadness. With writing like this, I predict Torres has a long writing career ahead of him.
I don’t think I would have picked this book up on my own, it’s not my normal kind of read, but when I hear someone raving goodness over another book, I become intrigued. I like to have my views widened, my eyes open to the world around me and We the Animals did just that. So I send a special thanks to Adam over at Roof Beam Readers for intriguing my curiosity with his raving review. I encourage you to head on over to his blog and check it out, because he’s able to break down a book so much better than I can and he touches on so much more. His reviews are always spot on…so go have a look!
Let me wrap up by saying, I highly recommend this book. Does it have a warm and fuzzy happy ending– no. Does it make you step back and realize that this could very well be someone’s family, someone’s life– yes. I’m thankful to have read it.
It’s honest, it’s heartbreaking, it is fantatic.
You can visit Justin Torres website HERE for more information on him and We the Animals. Or you can buy this book from the following locations: