Share via Email It takes the nerve of a debutant to stray from the first- or third-person singular narrative voice. We the Animals tells of the coming of age of the anonymous narrator and his two older brothers.
The two other important characters in the story are the mother, who is white, depressed, and unable to identify a shred of happiness in a domain ruled my machismo and poverty, and the father, a Puerto Rican man characterized by his rough, somewhat brutal, and at times impotent behavior.
It does not help that the mother was only fourteen when she became pregnant with Manny, whereas the father was sixteen.
Much of the tension within the novel surfaces when the children must assume adult roles as their parents come to grips with the fact that they were never given a chance to be children in the first place.
Part of what I enjoyed the most about this novel was its style and its honesty. The bulk of the narrative is told through the perspective of a sensitive protagonist who is seven years old. The mother constantly goes through heavy abuse by her husband—she is beaten, insulted, and at one point of the novel, it is implied that he rapes her.
The protagonist, however, easily buys into the lies fed to him by his father. That being said, the entire novel is void of explanations because it is distilled through the perspective of a child, not an omniscient and all-knowing narrator. What makes this novel so haunting is the fact that this violence and abuse is contrasted with many beautiful moments full of tenderness and genuine love.
The abuse and the tenderness are further contrasted with scenes that are subtle, but that convey a frightening sense of realness and rawness to the point of invoking discomfort. Among these moments was the scene in which the mother and father were bathing the three children.
This split within the narrative occurs after two very important events: This leads his father to point out the following: I was standing there, watching you dance and twirl and move like that, and I was thinking to myself, Goddamn, I got me a pretty one.
While at first I was upset with this sudden and abrupt shift of tone within the novel, it was afterwards that I realized that the actual structure of the novel was mimicking the shifts that the characters themselves undergo when trying to balance their inner human with their inner animal.
Furthermore, this narrative puts a new spin on the act of coming-out, in which the hardships of the actual process are not depicted. Is it possible that the coming-of-age genre is in due course coming-of-age?
This is a work I must return to again in the future when I have the time. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, We the Animals by Justin Torres.
Justin Torres's debut novel centers around three brothers who grow up in a world of imagination, neglect, and pain in an undisclosed upstate New York town. Trevor Noah and The World's Fakest News Team tackle the biggest stories in news, politics and pop culture.
Early life and education. Doug Ducey was born Douglas Anthony Roscoe Jr. in Toledo, Ohio, where he was raised. He is the son of Madeline Scott and Douglas Roscoe Sr., a former member of the Toledo Police Department.
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