four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
By: 
Aryn Kyle
user_rating: 
0

A-The God of AnimalsIt’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

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[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

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"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

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[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 3.5 of 5 Stars
"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 3.5 of 5 Stars
"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

Critical Summary

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.