It’s the hottest summer in years. Twelve-year-old Alice Winston lives on the family horse ranch in a small Colorado town, and she’s realizing that her life will never be roses and rainbows. Her clinically depressed mother never leaves the bedroom. Her beautiful older sister ran off with a rodeo cowboy. A childhood friend has turned up dead. And Alice’s father Joe, upset over his dwindling business, concocts a moneymaking scheme that relies on a rich woman and her daughter, an untalented rider who needs lessons. And Dad needs her help to make his plan work.
Scribner. 320 pages. $25. ISBN: 1416533249
"[A] first novel that’s so strong, startling, and moving, that it’s a thoroughbred from the first page. … [An] eloquent and haunted testament to grief, family attachments, and the rocky coastline of the human heart." Caroline Leavitt
"A memorable novel gracefully compares and contrasts the vast landscapes of the human condition. … To find these elements expertly handled in a debut novel—as they are in The God of Animals—is reason for readers to rejoice." Carol Memmott
"[Alice is] smart but uninformed, close cousin to the little girls in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Member of the Wedding. … Readers whose daughters yearn for horses when they’re reaching puberty might do well to give those daughters this thoughtful, heartsick book." Carolyn See
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The God of Animals turns out to be smarter than most [coming-of-age novels], as it moves through sexual stirrings, family disillusionment, issues of separation and deception. … Kyle can be overripe, but most of her prose is a joy, fluid on the page." Karen Long
St. Petersburg Times
"Like Annie Proulx and others before her, Aryn Kyle brilliantly reveals a vibrant female world pulsing at the heart of the protomasculine ranch life. … [Kyle] has a beautiful grasp of Alice’s voice." John Freeman
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 clichéd story—a lost girl approaching womanhood in a man’s world—and develops it in unpredictable, emotionally thrilling ways. The business of raising horses acts as a novel-length metaphor, sometimes too obviously, but Kyle’s illuminating details make it fresh. Alice sometimes veers into philosophical musings more fitting for a creative writing grad student, but her voice is still the voice of a character readers will care about deeply.