Hot Best Seller

The God of Animals

Availability: Ready to download

When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles -- a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles -- a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing to help her father mend their family and the ranch. To make ends meet, the Winstons board the pampered horses of rich neighbors, and for the first time Alice confronts the power and security that class and wealth provide. As her family and their well-being become intertwined with the lives of their clients, Alice is drawn into an adult world of secrets and hard truths, and soon discovers that people -- including herself -- can be cruel, can lie and cheat, and every once in a while, can do something heartbreaking and selfless. Ultimately, Alice and her family must weather a devastating betrayal and a shocking, violent series of events that will test their love and prove the power of forgiveness. A wise and astonishing novel about the different guises of love and the often steep tolls on the road to adulthood, The God of Animals is a haunting, unforgettable debut.

*advertisement

Compare

When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles -- a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family's troubles -- a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing to help her father mend their family and the ranch. To make ends meet, the Winstons board the pampered horses of rich neighbors, and for the first time Alice confronts the power and security that class and wealth provide. As her family and their well-being become intertwined with the lives of their clients, Alice is drawn into an adult world of secrets and hard truths, and soon discovers that people -- including herself -- can be cruel, can lie and cheat, and every once in a while, can do something heartbreaking and selfless. Ultimately, Alice and her family must weather a devastating betrayal and a shocking, violent series of events that will test their love and prove the power of forgiveness. A wise and astonishing novel about the different guises of love and the often steep tolls on the road to adulthood, The God of Animals is a haunting, unforgettable debut.

30 review for The God of Animals

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    despite its bold, college-sports-team cover colors, i would probably never have picked this book up if i hadn't needed to read a recent spur-award-winner for my beloved readers' advisory class. but, dammit, if it wasn't the most enjoyable thing i have read in a while. and i know that lately i have been slapping a ton of reviews up here, and y'all are sick of my stupid opinions, but heed me one more time: this book is crazy-good. greg, fonso, mfso - feel free to ignore me here, but ladies, come a despite its bold, college-sports-team cover colors, i would probably never have picked this book up if i hadn't needed to read a recent spur-award-winner for my beloved readers' advisory class. but, dammit, if it wasn't the most enjoyable thing i have read in a while. and i know that lately i have been slapping a ton of reviews up here, and y'all are sick of my stupid opinions, but heed me one more time: this book is crazy-good. greg, fonso, mfso - feel free to ignore me here, but ladies, come a little closer. it's not a girlie book, but it really captures something about that teetery place between (see, greg: "tween") child- and womanhood. i have no idea how something like this wins a spur award and cormac mccarthy doesn't - to me he is the embodiment of tough men, stinky boots, and scalping violence. but it does take place in colorado, which is west of where i am, so who am i to argue? this is a book that remembers how to tell a story, without complicating the process. its depth is in its simplicity, if you follow. the story is not revolutionary,(girl, horses, death, lies, fantasy world, teacher crush, economic disparity, eloped sister, first kiss, depressed mother, adultery, secrets secrets secrets, and life's disappointments including the ways a marriage can come apart) but it is told very well. the clear voice of the narrator and her eventual disillusionment and realizations is uncanny and a perfect crystallization of how it feels to be a girl on the cusp of puberty, with all of its aggression and violent impulses and unsure footing, cruelty and tenderness, the conflict, the decisions one makes to become the woman you become; particularly here, where the traditional role models are damaged, absent, or financially impossible. and the foal-weaning passages were heartbreaking and unexpected. oh, man. i loved this character. i loved her in all of her moods: confessional, spiteful, hopeful, lonely, guilty, triumphant. i loved the pacing, as her fantasy safety net crumbles and the truth comes out in tiny pieces and life's tarnish is revealed. it would also be acceptable for a YA audience, one that had also enjoyed to kill a mockingbird. and it makes me want to tell you to read what's eating gilbert grape, because the book is so so good. all in all, a perfect story, perfectly told. now, go. i will try to hold off reviewing for a while. come to my blog!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I had no idea who Aryn Kyle was before starting this read, but I've done a little homework since I've finished. I've learned that she won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2004 for The Atlantic Monthly, and that her winning short story, called Foaling Season went on to be the first chapter of The God of Animals, her debut novel. The first line of this novel reads, “Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy” and thus begins a nearly per I had no idea who Aryn Kyle was before starting this read, but I've done a little homework since I've finished. I've learned that she won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2004 for The Atlantic Monthly, and that her winning short story, called Foaling Season went on to be the first chapter of The God of Animals, her debut novel. The first line of this novel reads, “Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy” and thus begins a nearly perfect chapter. That nearly perfect chapter is followed by many other very solid chapters; it's an appealing narrative from start to finish. So much is good here. . . so many dips and turns into what makes us quirky, we humans. So many mature and thoughtful reflections, too, on what it means to be married and to be a part of a family. We are weird, people, so very weird, and it's amazing that this Aryn Kyle could have translated this weirdness into her prose so aptly in her mid-twenties! For example, Ms. Kyle has created a character here named Patty Jo, who is mixed up with a larger group of women at the barn (most of the story takes place on a horse ranch), and I found myself wanting to pause longer in her thoughts, pick her brain, maybe follow her home, just to watch her with her family. You see, Patty Jo has done was she was “supposed to do,” get a degree, marry a doctor, raise her children. . . yet, in a quiet moment in the barn, she tells the young protagonist that if she had her life to live over again. . . she'd instead get “a little apartment somewhere, with my own little things, where I could sit and read and whatever I wanted. I would just be me--by myself.” Then she quietly adds, “Marriage is the most expensive ticket to nowhere.” Ouch. Those of us crouched, mid-forties, just bit off another fingernail. So, there's a lot to think about here, a surprising number of things that make you go hmmmm. . . And, yes, okay, the writer published before the age of 30 and it's not perfect. The protagonist, Alice Winston, is a seventh grader who talks like a 48-year-old brothel owner (do those still exist?), and almost none of her big thinks make you'd think that she'd be old enough to have thunk 'em. Oh, and everyone, throughout the book, mouths what they want to say. For example, the attendees of the horse show mouth silently to one another Well, look at that and I'll be damned. Nope, nobody mouths those things. Maybe What? or Oh my God!, but not these other phrases. The story does lose its momentum at the end, and it feels like it degrades from adult fiction to young adult in its messy wrap-up. And, oh no, don't give me the. . . and, twenty years later, we all thought back on this time. . . when the entire rest of the novel was given to me in the present tense. Cheating! And yet. . . I kept turning the pages. I thought some big thoughts. I was also fascinated by the writer's use of the horses as characters and how she found a way to mirror human behavior in their own. There's something here, a great spark, to be sure, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Kyle's more recent work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    This book surprised me. I'm not into horse books, and be warned: this is a horse book. However, it's also really good. Aryn Kyle is an amazing writer. I think she's younger than me too, so I'm pretty jealous. What I really appreciate about this book is how complex the characters are. The protagonist is not always kind or honest, but she is strong and brave without being too much of a plucky Heidi type. She feels sorry for herself, which I think the heroines of young adult books have an annoying This book surprised me. I'm not into horse books, and be warned: this is a horse book. However, it's also really good. Aryn Kyle is an amazing writer. I think she's younger than me too, so I'm pretty jealous. What I really appreciate about this book is how complex the characters are. The protagonist is not always kind or honest, but she is strong and brave without being too much of a plucky Heidi type. She feels sorry for herself, which I think the heroines of young adult books have an annoying habit of not doing (though this is less a young adult book than a novel for adults with a twelve year old protagonist). She should feel sorry for herself; her life is not easy. I'm always a sucker for characters with the same name as me, so I was ready to forgive Alice a lot, but I think there is more to it than that. She is believable and engaging. My interest in her story made the profusion of horse details that normally would have bored me genuinely interesting. The other characters are equally nuanced. Every single one of them does terrible or at least off-putting things: Alice's father and grandfather commit brutal acts of violence, her mother rarely gets out of bed, her sister runs off with a cowboy leaving the already struggling family business desperate. Yet I found myself admiring each of these people as often as I was disgusted by them. There are numerous other equally conflicted and subtly drawn portraits in The God of Animals; even the awful rich women and hopelessly naive rich girl turn out to be genuine human beings, much to Alice's surprise. My biggest problem was with Alice's relationship with Mr. Delmar. He too is a complex character, neither good nor evil, but I could never understand his motivation. At first I sort of thought he was a child molester, but he isn't. Yet he flirts with Alice and talks to her on the phone for hours. Why? I just didn't understand. I understand her motivation; she's testing the boundaries of her life in tons of ways, but really what was he getting out of it?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Ayrn Kyle's book came into my hands at the right time, and I simply could not put it down. It stirred heartbreak deep within me, and I wept for Alice, the young narrator of this lovely book. The sadness is imbedded deep inside the story, subtle and graphic at the same time. The story is so rich and compelling that it threw me into its fast, rhythmic pace. Yet I wanted to slow down, practically begged Kyle to give me a break in the action to let her soulful and beautiful prose seep in to me. "Ups Ayrn Kyle's book came into my hands at the right time, and I simply could not put it down. It stirred heartbreak deep within me, and I wept for Alice, the young narrator of this lovely book. The sadness is imbedded deep inside the story, subtle and graphic at the same time. The story is so rich and compelling that it threw me into its fast, rhythmic pace. Yet I wanted to slow down, practically begged Kyle to give me a break in the action to let her soulful and beautiful prose seep in to me. "Upstairs in my sister's closet, I had closed my eyes and seen a place I hadn't known existed. There was no anger, no loneliness, no icy fear gnawing at the wires of my body. For that one moment the noise inside my head had turned still and silent. If hell was real and true and all around us, then heaven was too. And so I said nothing. I let my father's moment last. I let it go on until it ended."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    When I started to list the themes in this book, they were an awful dismal lot: abandonment, betrayal, secrecy and yearning. However, somehow there was this sense of hope and beauty throughout this book as well. Alice, a seventh grader opens her eyes to the world set against the backdrop of her family's ranch. This isn't a "Lassie" view of a ranch either. The harsh realities of trying to make a go of it persist as Alice's mother has permanently retired to her room, her sister has run off and Alic When I started to list the themes in this book, they were an awful dismal lot: abandonment, betrayal, secrecy and yearning. However, somehow there was this sense of hope and beauty throughout this book as well. Alice, a seventh grader opens her eyes to the world set against the backdrop of her family's ranch. This isn't a "Lassie" view of a ranch either. The harsh realities of trying to make a go of it persist as Alice's mother has permanently retired to her room, her sister has run off and Alice must find a way to gain her father's approval. My favorite line was "Real life is a hell of a lot scarier than dreams," he added.... "Like people you can't trust?" "Yes," he answered and his voice was quieter, "They're the most dangerous." "How can you tell who they are?" I asked. "That's easy," he said, "They're the people who are the hardest to stay away from."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    "Childhood is never over, not really...the places we come from don't leave us as easily as we leave them." When her older sister Nona elopes with a rodeo cowboy, Alice is left behind with her dysfunctional parents on the family's run-down horse ranch. Alice's father is overworked and struggling to make a living; Alice's mother is clinically depressed and never leaves her bedroom. Alice's home life is tough and isolating, so she seeks connections elsewhere. Her experience of the adult world, with "Childhood is never over, not really...the places we come from don't leave us as easily as we leave them." When her older sister Nona elopes with a rodeo cowboy, Alice is left behind with her dysfunctional parents on the family's run-down horse ranch. Alice's father is overworked and struggling to make a living; Alice's mother is clinically depressed and never leaves her bedroom. Alice's home life is tough and isolating, so she seeks connections elsewhere. Her experience of the adult world, with all its secrets and disappointments, is the focus of this coming-of-age story. Aryn Kyle is a talented writer, and this is a quiet, beautifully written book. The characters are complex, flawed and believable, the dialogue is realistic, and the pacing is perfect. There doesn't seem to be a word or scene that doesn't belong - you can tell that this book is carefully crafted, and this is not an author who cranks out a book a year. Not all the plot lines are resolved, but it seems fitting for this type of story, where the narrator's voice is so raw and real and questions from her childhood continue to haunt her long into her adult life. An amazing debut novel, and I can only hope I'll read more books this good (Aryn, where is your follow-up novel?). Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies

    Fantastic! Totally underrated in my opinion. I love a good coming of age story and this was one of the best I've read. Told through the eyes of 12 year old Alice we learn about the Winston family and all their troubles on a horse ranch in Desert Valley Colorado. The book opens with Alice talking about the death of a classmate who drowned in a canal. Her dad pulled out the dead body, as part of a makeshift sheriff posse. Her dad is the owner of the horse ranch and her mother stays in her room eve Fantastic! Totally underrated in my opinion. I love a good coming of age story and this was one of the best I've read. Told through the eyes of 12 year old Alice we learn about the Winston family and all their troubles on a horse ranch in Desert Valley Colorado. The book opens with Alice talking about the death of a classmate who drowned in a canal. Her dad pulled out the dead body, as part of a makeshift sheriff posse. Her dad is the owner of the horse ranch and her mother stays in her room everyday looking out the window totally keeping absent from her family. Alice has an older sister, Nona but Nona took off 6 months before the death of the girl, Polly and Alice misses her fiercely. Alice seems like a lonely girl. She helps with the ranch, training the horses, cleaning stalls and watching her dad take in boarders when they used to not when money gets tight and also watching him get close to one of the rich women. Also because of money issues they start training girls to participate in shows and slowly Alice learns about Sheila and how her life isn't as it seems, too. Alice is mature for her age and to fill a void in her life with missing her sister and not having a mom around who's interested she starts calling a teacher who was at the dead girl's funeral and thinks Alice was a close friend. She develops a big crush on him until he ups and leaves without saying goodbye. Nona comes back just when Alice starts to get over her and with her is her husband who makes it clear that their marriage isn't what they thought it would be like. I can't believe this is a debut novel. The author took horse riding lessons as a kid but didn't know a whole lot about this sort of hard living life. I loved Alice's character. She is smart, sassy, vulnerable, opinionated and dealing with issues beyond her years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Alice Winston is a 12 year-old girl whose dysfunctional and isolated family life has left her unable to cope when a classmate of her dies. Her father, Joe Winston, a horseman with too many of his own problems to worry about his daughter's, leaves her emotionally starved and physically overburdened. He doesn't notice as her clothes become too small and too tight and expects her to muck the horse stalls, take care of the horses and help out with her clinically depressed mother who hasn't left her Alice Winston is a 12 year-old girl whose dysfunctional and isolated family life has left her unable to cope when a classmate of her dies. Her father, Joe Winston, a horseman with too many of his own problems to worry about his daughter's, leaves her emotionally starved and physically overburdened. He doesn't notice as her clothes become too small and too tight and expects her to muck the horse stalls, take care of the horses and help out with her clinically depressed mother who hasn't left her bedroom in over a decade. In this burdensome environment, her sixteen year-old sister elopes with a rodeo cowboy creating an even wider gulf between Alice and other girls her age. Sheila, a girl her age but from the other side of town, starts coming out for riding and showmanship lessons. The family financially depends on this girl and her money, forcing Alice to befriend Sheila although she has few of the necessary social skills to do so. As the family business struggles financially, her father submits to what he calls his last resort and allows other people to board their pedigree horses in their barn. A group of rich women, dubbed the Catfish by Alice, start coming too frequently to socialize, ride their horse and drink out of paper cups and one of the women begins a dangerous flirtation with Alice's own emotionally starved father. A haunting family story with a beautiful but harsh landscape, Alice grows up understanding that dreams don't always come true, the good guy doesn't always finish first and that nature can be cruel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Update, 6/2/08: I've changed my mind and am going with a 1. I see this title popping up in various places, and I'd hate for anyone else to read it without first being warned. Animal lovers alert!!! Let's just say I took one for the team here. If you're not convinced you should avoid it, let me know. Apparently, there IS no god of animals. Actually, everyone kind-hearted should avoid this and if you doubt me, just read the last sentence before anything else. I can't really think of a more depressin Update, 6/2/08: I've changed my mind and am going with a 1. I see this title popping up in various places, and I'd hate for anyone else to read it without first being warned. Animal lovers alert!!! Let's just say I took one for the team here. If you're not convinced you should avoid it, let me know. Apparently, there IS no god of animals. Actually, everyone kind-hearted should avoid this and if you doubt me, just read the last sentence before anything else. I can't really think of a more depressing book that I've read lately. This reads like a Steinbeck work (specifically, "The Pony"), which should be a clue that things aren't gonna go good. The similarities to Steinbeck really bothered me (among other things, from gender b.s. to pathetic characters). And it sure felt like an assigned reading piece ... I can hear the questions now: "How is the weather like a character in this novel? Give examples." or "Can you point out several instances of foreshadowing?" and so forth. So is it a 2 because I was so emotionally distressed or because it was a bad book? Is it fair to give it a 2 if the quality of writing was good (after all, I did keep reading to the bitter -- and I do mean BITTER!! -- end.) I've been twisting the ratings idea around and around. Yeah. Hated this, even if it was hard to put down. I'll stick with the 2. One final comment. She dedicated this book to her mother. Wow. Thanks.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I've never liked a book so much at the beginning and been so disappointed in it in the end. The first 100 pages of this novel are amazing. But in the end, the author falters. I understand that it originally started out as a short story, and Kyle is simply not able to maintain the narrative when expanding it to novel length. The story becomes repetitive, as does the language. The descriptions of character emotions become strained and overwrought while the characters themselves simultaneously beco I've never liked a book so much at the beginning and been so disappointed in it in the end. The first 100 pages of this novel are amazing. But in the end, the author falters. I understand that it originally started out as a short story, and Kyle is simply not able to maintain the narrative when expanding it to novel length. The story becomes repetitive, as does the language. The descriptions of character emotions become strained and overwrought while the characters themselves simultaneously become less sympathetic. This is Kyle's first work, and I think she will ultimately write a stronger piece of long fiction. I would recommend reading the first chapter of this work, which was entitled "Foaling Season," in the Atlantic, where it was originally published, and waiting for her next novel to come out, instead of tackling this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    The Winston family is falling apart. The mother handed over baby Alice to her older sister and retreated to her bedroom where she has stayed for twelve years and Alice’s father is a harsh and distant man, choosing to fill his life with his livelihood, training horses and giving riding lesssons.. Alice is set adrift when her sister runs away to marry a rodeo rider and she seeks to fill the void by trying to gain the attention of her father, classmates and a teacher, with unexpected results. This The Winston family is falling apart. The mother handed over baby Alice to her older sister and retreated to her bedroom where she has stayed for twelve years and Alice’s father is a harsh and distant man, choosing to fill his life with his livelihood, training horses and giving riding lesssons.. Alice is set adrift when her sister runs away to marry a rodeo rider and she seeks to fill the void by trying to gain the attention of her father, classmates and a teacher, with unexpected results. This is a lyrical coming-of-age novel with beautifully descriptive landscapes, alienated individuals and lives filled with tragedy. PS....This was one of those stories that at some point gripped me and by the end I couldn't put it down. I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the crisis point in the story so pick this up with the warning, "this book may break your heart".

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I've had this on my 'to read' list for many months and the library was always out so I figured, 'wow, must be great' and yes... overall the story held my attention and the writing was really above par, but I didn't close the book and spend anytime contemplating it. I think the characters were well thought out and the story was interesting. It is told from the point of view of a pretty mature 12 year old whose family owns a horse farm that is slowly burning out and how this affects her and the pe I've had this on my 'to read' list for many months and the library was always out so I figured, 'wow, must be great' and yes... overall the story held my attention and the writing was really above par, but I didn't close the book and spend anytime contemplating it. I think the characters were well thought out and the story was interesting. It is told from the point of view of a pretty mature 12 year old whose family owns a horse farm that is slowly burning out and how this affects her and the people surrounding her. Okay, that was a pretty cheap synopsis... sorry. I do recommend reading it. But it wasn't one of those books that changed my life. Hence, 3 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    I loved this book. It has similar themes to My Friend Flicka and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and it's both imaginative and creative, telling the story of a girl who finds a love for horses amidst her dysfunctional family.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melinda Worfolk

    This book reminded me of one of those young adult "problem novels" I used to read as a kid--the ones that featured any one (or combination) of the following: drug addiction, neglect, abuse, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, family dysfunction, mental illness, or terminal illness. The writing was quite good, but I didn't find the characters to be particularly well drawn. The protagonist, 12-year-old Alice, is probably the best developed of all of them, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Her life This book reminded me of one of those young adult "problem novels" I used to read as a kid--the ones that featured any one (or combination) of the following: drug addiction, neglect, abuse, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, family dysfunction, mental illness, or terminal illness. The writing was quite good, but I didn't find the characters to be particularly well drawn. The protagonist, 12-year-old Alice, is probably the best developed of all of them, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Her life is just so hopeless and dismal. I don't need my books to have relentlessly happy plots or be unrealistically positive, but this book was almost comic in the way that nothing ever turned out well. NOTHING. I guess this is not actually unrealistic considering the dysfunction present in Alice's family--her father is an overburdened, guilt-ridden, financially troubled horse rancher with anger problems; her mother is depressed, delusional, bedridden and often almost catatonic; her sister, unable and unwilling to cope with all of this, runs away with a rodeo rider at the age of 17. The other major problem I had with this book is the flaccid pacing and the lack of narrative tension. The events in the book sort of...happen, and then there is flatness; there is no momentum and the reader is carried limply forward to the next event. Many of them seem to be non-events. Some plot points are introduced and then go nowhere. Apparently the first chapter of this book was originally a self-contained short story, and that makes a lot of sense to me--some of the plot threads in the book would have been fine short stories, but they don't really work when stuck together in novel form. I can't say I'd recommend this book, unless you are feeling nostalgic for those old YA "problem novels," in which case, this will fit the bill perfectly.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Visha

    Reasons why Aryn Kyle and I will one day braid each others' hair: 1. I am currently growing my hair out and she already (judging from her ultra-adorable author photo) has long hair. 2. We both like horseys and place is important in our writing (for me, the South; for her, the West) 3. Our work has so many resonantingly similar themes that when I finished The G of A, I put the book down and sobbed - because the end of the book is sad, sure, but also because I suddenly wondered why the hell I was wor Reasons why Aryn Kyle and I will one day braid each others' hair: 1. I am currently growing my hair out and she already (judging from her ultra-adorable author photo) has long hair. 2. We both like horseys and place is important in our writing (for me, the South; for her, the West) 3. Our work has so many resonantingly similar themes that when I finished The G of A, I put the book down and sobbed - because the end of the book is sad, sure, but also because I suddenly wondered why the hell I was working on a book (a thesis actually) that feels as though it's now been written and yes, is apparently better than anything I could write. 4. Like most of my good friends, I started out unimpressed (with the book, and to be honest, with the way she spells her name ("Erin" spelled A-r-y-a-n ?!?)) but then - after returning to the book after putting it aside for a few weeks - I powered through it, found it compelling and interesting and smart and sad and then wanted to be best friends with the author. Sigh. 5. The chick got reviewed in People Magazine. Wow. Even my mom reads People Magazine. 6. She has boarders, horses, horse-death, weird relationships with guys, mother-issues, and even a freakin' marine show up by the end. F**k. That was basically the premise of my thesis. I think I should quietly retire. 7. Thanks to Berliner, who listened to me whine about this and told me that all writers struggle with the issues of what to write and why to write it and who would want to read it. Which of course, he put it all sarcastically and since my sarcaso-meter is about as screwed up as my gaydar, I didn't get and got all snivelly, he finally had to be nice and supportive. He's awesome. He also pointed out that this chick and me have weird names.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Reppe

    This is a realistic coming-of-age story set in death valley. Alice and her family make a living off their horse ranch. There is a lot of work for Alice and her dad when her sister leaves with a boyfriend. THIS BOOK ISN'T REALLY ABOUT HORSES, even though Alice's relationship with these animals is one of the wonderful things about this story. This beautifully written tale is about hard work, man vs. nature, taking chances, and compassion. There is a lot of involvement with horses, because the fami This is a realistic coming-of-age story set in death valley. Alice and her family make a living off their horse ranch. There is a lot of work for Alice and her dad when her sister leaves with a boyfriend. THIS BOOK ISN'T REALLY ABOUT HORSES, even though Alice's relationship with these animals is one of the wonderful things about this story. This beautifully written tale is about hard work, man vs. nature, taking chances, and compassion. There is a lot of involvement with horses, because the family and even the community is dependant upon these creatures for a living. But the point is the underlying tension in each scene, because so much is at stake. We get to see life through an insightful twelve yr old, experience the hard times and good times and triumps through her. I loved the scene where she competes in the horse riding contest, and I loved that the dad had a gift for training horses and cared about them. "In the mornings my father and I fed the horses while it was still dark, and I would walk to school shaking hay from my hair and clothing, scratching at the pieces that had fallen down the front of my shirt. In the afternoons we cleaned the stalls and groomed and exercised the horses. It was foaling season and my father didn't like to leave the barn even for a minute, in case one of our mares went into labor." Five stars. I loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Written from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl, The God of Animals tells the story of Alice Winston, who is dealing with her older sister and role model running off and getting married, the growing distance between herself and her parents and the death of a classmate she never knew. Positives: + A quick read. It definitely made the time go by faster on a long road trip. + The final scene was heartbreaking. + I've been a horse lover my whole life, so the subject matter was definitely right u Written from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl, The God of Animals tells the story of Alice Winston, who is dealing with her older sister and role model running off and getting married, the growing distance between herself and her parents and the death of a classmate she never knew. Positives: + A quick read. It definitely made the time go by faster on a long road trip. + The final scene was heartbreaking. + I've been a horse lover my whole life, so the subject matter was definitely right up my alley. + The problems Alice had with her father were believable. Their interactions were the most realistic in the book. Negatives: - The language and tone didn't quite fit with that of a twelve-year-old girl. I know it was written from an adult's perspective, but Alice's internal monologue was far too grown-up. The bit about going from a tomboy to an insecure preteen worried about clothes, hair and fitting in helped to remind me who exactly was telling the story. but it was still hard to suspend my disbelief in parts. - For once, what I was expecting to happen would have been better than what actually did. What happened with the teacher was too easily explained and written off. - The entire first chapter was originally a short story. It was excellent. Everything else seemed slightly tacked on after that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    so, i would never have picked up this book had it not been for so many positive reviews for it here on goodreads, especially this one. The cover is really awful, the description didn't really grab me,and I have no particular interest in horses (other than Heartland obvs), but I enjoyed this so much! it's so great! It just has a really great style to it, so that it doesn't really matter what Aryn Kyle is writing about, I was there. It's narrated by a 12 year old girl who is totally believable - sh so, i would never have picked up this book had it not been for so many positive reviews for it here on goodreads, especially this one. The cover is really awful, the description didn't really grab me,and I have no particular interest in horses (other than Heartland obvs), but I enjoyed this so much! it's so great! It just has a really great style to it, so that it doesn't really matter what Aryn Kyle is writing about, I was there. It's narrated by a 12 year old girl who is totally believable - she's cute and smart but also she's cruel and mean and no one is really looking out for her, what with her sister running off with a cowboy, her mum lying in bed all day and her dad overworked and just kind of useless in anything unrelated to horses. Then there's also a dead girl, some glamorous ladies, affairs, a skeevy teacher and lots of riding of horses. It all has an underlying darkness to it, and I was just waiting for things to go wrong or for the characters to do awful stuff. I really enjoyed the pacing of it, the setting, the sense of place and the weather too... it's a really hot summer that you can just feel....

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dale

    And here it is - the fiftieth book I read on my commute. Started the new job mid-June of '07, and by the end of March '08, nine and a half months later, I have fifty more books taking up mental shelf space. Most of them pretty good, too. The word that kept recurring to me over and over again as I read The God of Animals was "sad". It is a book about sad things - the economic problems of the hard-working lower class, the awkwardness of early adolescence, the devastation of failed marriages, both t And here it is - the fiftieth book I read on my commute. Started the new job mid-June of '07, and by the end of March '08, nine and a half months later, I have fifty more books taking up mental shelf space. Most of them pretty good, too. The word that kept recurring to me over and over again as I read The God of Animals was "sad". It is a book about sad things - the economic problems of the hard-working lower class, the awkwardness of early adolescence, the devastation of failed marriages, both the ones that end in divorce and the ones that limp along brokenly forever. And all of these things are described by the author beautifully, if heart-breakingly. There are even a few minor victories for the protagonist, twelve-year-old Alice Winston, which just make the bad things that happen to her and around her that much more crushing. If you can appreciate art for its ability to inspire a deep abundance of emotion, even negative emotions, and you're in the right mindset to appreciate a few hundred pages of beautiful sadness, then you should find reading this book to be pretty rewarding. Having a soft spot for horses wouldn't hurt, either.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rafe

    The back of the book says that Alice, the narrator, stands in the company of the girls from To Kill a Mockingbird and Member of the Wedding, and while this is true, it makes the book overall sound more Bildungsroman than is maybe the case. I thought it was more like a combination of The Lovely Bones and The Red Pony -- which my sister said sounds like as much fun as a slipper full of tacks. She maybe has a point, but despite the sorrow left behind by the roller coaster of a plot, not to mention The back of the book says that Alice, the narrator, stands in the company of the girls from To Kill a Mockingbird and Member of the Wedding, and while this is true, it makes the book overall sound more Bildungsroman than is maybe the case. I thought it was more like a combination of The Lovely Bones and The Red Pony -- which my sister said sounds like as much fun as a slipper full of tacks. She maybe has a point, but despite the sorrow left behind by the roller coaster of a plot, not to mention the incredible drain of the ending, I am extremely glad I read it. Arvyn Kyle proves that it is possible to go through an MFA program without sounding like a knock-off of Ann Beattie, John Updike, or Bret Easton Ellis, and in the process has brought me a very welcome addition to my library and my list of recommendations.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jodie

    This book was beautiful. The characters were so perfectly constructed, wonderfully flawed and totally 3 dimensional. Alice, the star of this book, is a young girl with a very difficult home and school life, absolutely pining for affection and a connection to humanity. Her older sister has run off, her mum sits locked away in a dark room, deeply depressed and cut off from the world whilst her dad is a horse trainer with dubious methods learnt from his father. The farm is struggling as is he, and This book was beautiful. The characters were so perfectly constructed, wonderfully flawed and totally 3 dimensional. Alice, the star of this book, is a young girl with a very difficult home and school life, absolutely pining for affection and a connection to humanity. Her older sister has run off, her mum sits locked away in a dark room, deeply depressed and cut off from the world whilst her dad is a horse trainer with dubious methods learnt from his father. The farm is struggling as is he, and the author draws beautiful parallels between his emotional state and the horses he trains. Some of the scenes were devasating in their grief, very confronting reading. I felt for these characters, every single one of them. A highly emotional read. Loved it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Culli

    This novel started as a short-story. The characters and the landscape are so compelling. The main character, Alice Winston, is a lonely 12-year old girl living with her family in Desert Valley, Colorado. Her mother is clinically depressed and rarely leaves her room, her 16-year old sister eloped and her father is emotionally unavailable as he works to keep the family's ranch operating. The novel opens with, "Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married This novel started as a short-story. The characters and the landscape are so compelling. The main character, Alice Winston, is a lonely 12-year old girl living with her family in Desert Valley, Colorado. Her mother is clinically depressed and rarely leaves her room, her 16-year old sister eloped and her father is emotionally unavailable as he works to keep the family's ranch operating. The novel opens with, "Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy." Horse lore plays a huge role and is used to explain and examine the subtleties and nuances of each character. The prose is flawless and Kyle literally transports her readers to the landscape of the west. The author is a recent graduate from the MFA program at Montana.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    here's the thing: i hate horses. i don't find them pretty or awe-inspiring. i don't want to ride them. i don't like how smelly they are. that being said, this book is about a young girl growing up on a horse farm and i freaking loved it. it's incredibly well-written and an auspicious debut by the author. i will definitely be on the lookout for her next book. this book was a wonderful surprise, i highly recommend it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Krista Omstead

    This is absolutely one of the only books that has "stuck" with me for years. It is so beautiful and painful, that it's hard to describe. I recommend it but with caution. It's a story so compelling but heart wrenching.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashburygirl

    Honestly the most terrible thing I've ever read. Think of very terrible thing a human can do, especially blatant animal cruelty, and it's either there or alluded to. I can't unread this book, but I wish I could. I have never had such a reaction to ANYTHING. Not even Elie Weisel.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tamra

    I couldn't put this book down - loved the raw perspective of the 12 yr old girl combined with farm life. Has anyone else started it?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Critics raised a few concerns about this debut novel (based on the award-winning short story "Foaling Season"), but Aryn Kyle's talent astounded everyone. She takes a clich_

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)

    Gorgeously written coming-of-age story that's mostly nuance, minimal on plot. I went straight from this book to picking up a popular thriller. The contrast between the prose styles was jarring, in a bad way. It was like leaving the sound bath of a spa treatment room and wandering into an airport baggage claim area.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    Is there a litmus test for whether or not we like a book? At book club last night, where we discussed our first book of 2009, The God Of Animals by Aryn Kyle, we asked the question: would you recommend this book to a friend? The answers were varied and that’s even after we had a very lively discussion of the book’s merits (and there were a few.) The God of Animals begins with the death of 12 year old Polly Cain. It’s a riveting scene in which we learn not only of Polly’s death but also several ot Is there a litmus test for whether or not we like a book? At book club last night, where we discussed our first book of 2009, The God Of Animals by Aryn Kyle, we asked the question: would you recommend this book to a friend? The answers were varied and that’s even after we had a very lively discussion of the book’s merits (and there were a few.) The God of Animals begins with the death of 12 year old Polly Cain. It’s a riveting scene in which we learn not only of Polly’s death but also several other important things about the novel’s narrator, Alice Winston. Alice returns to Polly’s death again and again throughout the novel, but we never learn exactly how the young girl died. Whether or not the information is relevant will be entirely up to the reader, but some might find that never knowing Polly’s fate is just one of the ways Kyle leaves the reader dangling. Alice Winston lives on the family horse farm with her father, Joe, and her mother, Marian. Alice’s older sister, Nona, left the farm six months earlier, with her rodeo husband, Jerry. The Winston’s struggle to make ends meet on the farm and Alice’s family life is further complicated by the fact that her mother retired to her room after giving birth to her and she’s never really gotten out of bed. Of course, that doesn’t mean she isn’t aware of what’s going on; she watches the comings and goings (of rich women who board their horses at the farm) from her window. The story unfolds during the crippling heat of one summer and climaxes during a snow storm - the first snow in Alice’s life. As Alice tests her boundaries and learns certain truths about the way the world works, she also navigates the tricky road of adult relationships. Then, of course, there are the horses: we see them give birth, we see the foals separated from their mothers, we see them being bred and broken, we see them maimed and killed. Despite all this, The God of Animals is a quiet book. The prose is quiet - it never quite swept me along. The characters were interesting, but I was never wholly invested in them. I wonder what might have happened if the narrator had not been Alice? So, back to my original question: would I recommend this book? My answer – maybe.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Open Loop Press

    A run-down ranch, a family divided by chasms in close proximity, an immersive, increasingly untenable way of life — “The God of Animals” is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, but it is also the story of a disappearing lifestyle once crucial to the American narrative: work on the land, the horse and its rider, survival because of, in spite of the natural world. “The people who lived on our side of town had been born here, and their parents before them. There were no new restaurants, no clean w A run-down ranch, a family divided by chasms in close proximity, an immersive, increasingly untenable way of life — “The God of Animals” is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, but it is also the story of a disappearing lifestyle once crucial to the American narrative: work on the land, the horse and its rider, survival because of, in spite of the natural world. “The people who lived on our side of town had been born here, and their parents before them. There were no new restaurants, no clean white houses. No one complained of dry skin. As the valley transformed around us, the locals relied on the history of weather to discriminate between those who could be trusted and those who could not.” (Pg. 68) In a library of novels driven by precocious child-narrators, Aryn Kyle’s Alice Winston stands out, not for her gifts, but because she does not possess the right ones. Coming of age in a culture that rewards remarkable riders, Alice is an outsider, a diligent worker, a utilitarian rancher and a child struggling with classic conundrums, textured by context: the strictures of family, the opacity of human relationships, the right angled road away from home. To earn a livelihood, she and her family must perpetuate their clients’ idea that animals’ principle utilities are entertainment and pleasure, while behind the scenes the Winston’s work brings them into daily contact with life’s brutality. Through Alice’s attentive observation, Kyle explores the contradictions that emerge when a way of life is reduced to fetishized culture. “The boarders whispered and giggled like children, addressing each other as girls — ‘Girls, we need more drinky-drinks,’ and, ‘I’ve had the most fabulous idea, girls!’ … And while I didn’t want to pay attention to them, didn’t want to admit that I noticed them at all, they always seemed to be having more fun than anyone else. I couldn’t stop watching.” (Pg. 95) In “The God of Animals,” readers confront an America in transition, the threat posed by homogeneity, and the loneliness that envelops those who live at its threshold. — Carlin M. Wragg, Editor Open Loop Press

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.