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The God of Animals: A Novel

The God of Animals: A Novel

Written by Aryn Kyle

Narrated by Lily Rabe


The God of Animals: A Novel

Written by Aryn Kyle

Narrated by Lily Rabe

ratings:
4/5 (31 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Released:
Mar 20, 2007
ISBN:
9780743561556
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

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, bed-ridden mother, a reticent, overworked father, and a rundown 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 found on the road to adulthood, The God of Animals is a haunting, unforgettable debut.
Released:
Mar 20, 2007
ISBN:
9780743561556
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Aryn Kyle is the author of the bestselling novel The God of Animals and a graduate of the University of Montana writing program. Her short stories have appeared in Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New American Voices 2005, Best American Short Stories 2007, and The Atlantic Monthly, for which her story "Foaling Season" won a National Magazine Award. She is also the recipient of the American Library Association's Alex Award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’Award, and others.  She lives in New York.

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Reviews

What people think about The God of Animals

3.9
31 ratings / 33 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Something off the beaten path this week. I really wanted to read a book by Carl Zimmer that was recommended to me by both Sean Carroll and my middle son. But when it arrived from Amazon, I saw it was printed in a font size I thought was reserved for medicine prescription bottles. While I waited for yet another pair of reading glasses to arrive, with yet another higher power (sigh...), I found this novel in the library. Aryn Kyle is apparently a young writer, and this is her first novel. If so, I plan to read more of her. Set somewhere in Arizona, it is a coming of age tale of a young girl. This is a fine story, not a happy one, about real people living in the real world. I found it satisfying and moving, both.
  • (2/5)
    I've had this book for ages on my shelf. While it was well written and covered some interesting aspects of love, the multiple levels of sadness present in it ultimately overwhelmed everything else for me.
  • (4/5)
    Heartbreaking.
  • (2/5)
    The story centers on a young girl, about 12-years-old, attempting to understand her world. Alice Winston lives in Colorado, on a horse farm with her parents. Alice's mother remains hidden in the bedroom and very seldom ventures out of this cocoon. Alice's older sister has eloped with a rodeo cowboy, and Alice spends every day helping her father run their shabby horse farm. Aryn Kyle presents a vivid story of the trials and joys of horsemanship, but the story turns to despair at every turn. I felt trapped in the odyssey of The Grapes of Wrath, minus the eloquent language. Alice develops her first crush for a totally inappropriate male. The book ends tragically and the ending permeates the book with despair and hopelessness.
  • (3/5)
    A small point: The jacket claims this novel is set in Colorado, and the author does live (or has lived) in Grand Junction, but while I do not know my adopted state as well as I could, I did not get a Western Slope vibe from this. I read it as eastern California and when the text contradicted that, Nevada or Arizona.

    The author took some easy outs, especially at the end.
  • (3/5)
    Audiobook performed by Lily Rabe
    3.5***

    From the dust jacket - 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. ? 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.

    My reaction
    There were times when the writing and the storyline simply took my breath away and I was left gasping. But there were times when I was left wondering ?Where is this going?? Absolutely nothing goes right for this kid. Her sister has taken off, leaving 12-year-old Alice with responsibilities no child her age should have to carry. Her mother has sequestered herself in her bedroom for Alice?s entire life; lying in the darkened room with only the flicker of the television. Her father works hard, but not necessarily smart, and he just cannot catch a break. Alice is clearly intelligent, but she is an unreliable narrator given her penchant for lies, both small and large. She goes through her school day talking to no one, eating lunch alone, and then doing chores alongside her father. To hide her shame, she invents a more exciting life and tells different versions of it to different people ? her mother has cancer, her mother is a high-powered businesswoman, her father is a professor, her sister is married to a doctor, etc. Alice has perfected the art of turning people away before they can reject her; she is so good at this, that she also keeps the reader at bay. I kept waiting for something bad to happen (and frequently it did), but it was so unrelentingly bleak that I had to keep my distance. As a result, I never really empathized with the family.

    Lily Rabe does a fine job performing the audio version. She was able to clearly differentiate the characters; even the various pre-teen girls sounded unique.
  • (4/5)
    A coming of age story about Alice, a twelve year old growing up on a failing horse ranch in Colorado. Her father works hard and has little time to notice her. Her mother suffers from depression and hasn't left her bedroom since shortly after Alice was born. Her older sister Nona, a much loved show horse rider, ran away and married a rodeo rider. When the family loses the stud horse on their breeding farm they are forced to make money by boarding the horses of their wealthy neighbors and giving riding lessons. The boarders become a sort of family for Alice and her father. When a classmate of Alice's is found drowned in the canal Alice discovers a secret about the girl and her English teacher. I enjoyed this book - relatable characters, a great setting, animal stories. There is some animal cruelty and violence, mostly in the context of "breaking" horses. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    The story was interesting and the characters were realistic, but there were parts of this book I just could not take. The graphic cruelty to animals was over the top. So much so that I had to fast forward through some of it. Maybe it wouldn't have affected me so much if I were not an animal lover. Not a light hearted read.
  • (4/5)
    The God of Animals reminded me a great deal of A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, very harsh and Shakespearean. Making your living off the land is a hard way to go, and trying to be a poor horse rancher catering to the rich takes all the vicissitudes of working with nature and mixes it with the crushing burden of the class system. A reverence for life is constantly at war with an indifference to the living. This is a very harsh and very good book.
  • (4/5)
    interesting story & characters -- not quite what I expected but in a good way it was a good book.
  • (3/5)
    I happened on this book as a clearance-priced audio book when I needed one, and as such I was far from disappointed. I am glad I read it in audio, though, because of the graphic scenes of violence to the horses, but also the other scenes that were better experienced than created from my own imagination, such as the mayflies. I heard Alice's voice clearly in Lily Rabe's reading, and despite our great differences, I could identify with her. The only thing I think the novel could have done without was the pedophile teacher. Alice's life on the ranch and in her family was enough for her to deal with.
  • (4/5)
    Fresh heartbreak on every page and a devastating denouement, but I'm not complaining.
  • (4/5)
    Wonderful writing, an appealing, if rather precocious, narrator, and believable characters make this a worthwhile read. There were some brutal moments involving the horses, and I certainly was not persuaded that there IS a "god of animals" watching out for creatures--both human and animal--that are powerless to help themselves. Nonetheless, Aryn Kyle has a gift with words and an ability to draw the reader in. A fine first novel.
  • (5/5)
    In the manner of young Scout Finch, 12-year-old Alice is the narrator and interpretor of events and behaviors in this debut novel. And, like Harper Lee's young heroine, Alice is motherless, but in a different way. While her mother Marion still lives, she has taken to her bedroom shortly after Alice's birth and stayed there, nearly immobilized with depression, leaving her younger daughter to a neglectful upbringing by her husband, who runs the family horse ranch. The story opens just after the elopement of Alice's elder sister, Nona, an accomplished equestrienne, and the discovery of a young girl's body in a nearby canal. From these two events, Alice's loneliness becomes the driving force of the book, as she fantasizes about the exciting escapades of her sister, fabricates an imagined friendship with the dead young girl, and develops a romantic fixation on her teacher. Her only real friendship develops with the ranch's young riding student, upon whose fees the struggling ranch tries to survive. The story is fraught with tough love and shattered illusions, but also brightened briefly with a few sparks of hope and achievement. I was engrossed by this slice of life so different from my own, and hope that Aryn Kyle will have more to share with us in her writing career.
  • (2/5)
    Nice coming of age story of a young girl who is being raised by her father on a horse ranch.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent coming of age book. Sadly it goes somewhat south at the end, but still worth the read. Author's descriptions are apt to the situations and give the book a great deal of color. Deals with the horse world well, but there really is no growth in any of the characters.
  • (3/5)
    Another coming of age story about a young girl whose famly has a horse business. Her mother is mentally ill and her father is domineering while still trying to keep his family together.
  • (4/5)
    A young girl's coming of age story in the high desert of Colorado. Alice is growing up on a ramshackle horse farm. At the opening of the story, her 17 year old sister has recently run away to get married, her mother is a mentally unstable recluse, and her father is the sole parent and provider.A strong undercurrent of foreboding and potential disaster lurks underneath the story. There are horses, horse shows, socio-economic class tensions through out the book. Love, marriage, and human limitations in relationships are also strong themes.
  • (4/5)
    I give this novel high marks for the skill of it. Kyle is a very talented author, especially when you consider this is a first novel. However, I had an incredibly hard time with some of the small mindedness of the characters, specifically in the cruelty towards the horses. Some of it made me gasp ... and cry, hoping that these were not snippets taken from reality. I also think some of the horse behavior was well off from my exposure to a local horse sanctuary, however, it is fiction and I realize that. I liked the main character a lot, which kept me reading. I think this author has incredible potential and I hope she finds more likeable characters to carry out her skills. The title is really deceptive too because you think it will be about the power of horses and their spirit/energy, but in reality it's about how the father/thug beats them into submission and oblivion.
  • (4/5)
    I consider myself to be an avid and open-minded reader, but probably wouldn't have picked up a title about a young girl and horses, but I thought I would give it a try since The BPP selected it for the book club. I grew up with friends who raised and showed horses and was taken back to hot summer days hanging out in the horse barn watching the preparations to show these magnificent animals. Little did I know how much really went in to preparing these horses for the show ring? It is indeed a "show." I really felt that Kyle created an excellent juxtaposition of the illusion of the horse show and the illusion that surrounded so much of Alice's life. Kyle revealed the layers of artifice that created the image of the horses in the show ring and the artifice that made up the lives of the characters: Sheila's parent's marriage, Nona and Jerry's marriage, Joe and Marian's marriage, Alice's friendship with Polly and with Mr. Delmar, Marian's appearances downstairs when Ruby and Jack visit, Joe and Patty Jo's relationship and the Catfish themselves and the list goes on. I was particularly moved by the complicated relationship between Alice and her father. Joe was extremely conflicted by his troubled relationship with Nona and Marian and was desperately trying to preserve his relationship with Alice while at the same time threatening to drive her away.Kyle revealed a great deal about each of the characters as the novel progressed, but she didn't neatly tie-up the characters or their storylines. This made the reading of this even more compelling. I hoped with each page, I would know why Nona ran off with Jerry and why Marian couldn't stay downstairs. Kyle hinted at these things, but never laid them out completely. I appreciated that.I was particularly moved during Alice's phone conversation with Mr. Delmar when she says, "It just seems like there should be someone, something out there that cares about then, cares that they existed, that they suffered or didn't." "Something out there ought to be watching over them." Alice is seeking The God of Animals.
  • (5/5)
    A great book, but be ready to cry, becasue this is a sad book, I had heard it was an uplifting story, but I did not feel that way at all. I almost wish it had a happier ending but then it may have gotten a little corny and I may not have liked it as much, I just felt really sad at the end of the book. I really liked that it was written through the 12 year old's eyes and all her feelings and experiences. I'm not a big fan of horse stories and don't really like horses at all, but I still loved this book (for those of you who feel the same as me about horses).
  • (3/5)
    The question which remains in my mind is whether, by the story's end, anything had truly changed in the life of the main character. My verdict: Challenges do not always lead to redemption. She didn't seem to learn anything which she was willing to use to effect a positive change in her dysfunctional life. Very good book for producing strong opinions and compelling discussion.
  • (4/5)
    God of Animals, by Aryn Kyle, is an unflinching, powerful, honest, and achingly beautiful coming-of-age tale set in the American West. The period is most likely the mid-1970s?a time before computers, the Internet, cell-phones, satellite T.V., and antidepressant medications. The story is told entirely from the point of view of Alice Winston, a lonely twelve-year-old growing up on an aging horse ranch in Desert Valley, Colorado. There are two transitions that take place over the course of the novel: one involves the ranch moving in a new direction, and the other involves Alice growing into adolescence. Both are wrought with difficulty and pain.The ranch has been in the family for three generation, but it?s fallen on hard times and may not survive. Rich suburbs are taking root everywhere and the ranchers must adapt or fail. The days of proud horse breeding are over. The new business is catering to the needs of wealthy suburban horse lovers. It?s the direction and reality of modern life. There is nothing they can do to halt it. Alice?s transition into adolescence is just as inevitable and wrenching, but there?s a twist. At twelve, Alice is already an adult. It?s primarily Alice?s body that?s undergoing change, but naturally the bodily changes induce a flood of emotional and psychological changes as well. It is these that Alice has difficulty understanding, and there is no one in her life to help. Alice?s mother is clinically depressed?she?s barely left her bedroom since Alice was a baby. Once a star horsewoman, now she is a mental invalid incapable of parenting Alice in any meaningful way. Alice?s father, Joe, is overwhelmed keeping his business afloat, and is blind to his daughter?s emotional needs. He fails his daughter at every turn. Alice has had to parent herself?in almost every way, she is mature beyond her years. Alice?s older sister is gone. She ran away a year ago to marry a cowboy. Alice has no friends?she?s different, isolated, not like the other primarily suburban girls that populate her school. Adding to her emotional anguish, a classmate recently drowned. It?s a difficult time, and Alice feels isolated, alone, adrift, and abandoned.Alice?s father, Joe, treats her like an adult ranch hand. When she?s not at school, she?s expected to do a man?s work. Joe is a rough unsentimental realist, and is obviously trying to raise Alice in the same mold. But Alice is having a hard time remaining unsentimental. Unlike her father, she is acutely aware of the emotional side of life, particularly the emotional needs of animals. She looks at their suffering and feels that the world is as blind to their needs as it is to hers. With practiced detachment, she takes in all the everyday cruelty and abuse that often forms the foundation of ranching. Outwardly, she does not flinch, but inwardly she rails against it. Alice knows all too well that the world can be cruel and unforgiving. Two adults eventually enter Alice?s life and offer her some degree of emotional support. Unfortunately, she finds out that both are merely using her to achieve their own private agendas. This is a simple story about everyday realities. I loved both the human and animal characters, as well as the rich acceptance of reality that underscore this humane novel. I also loved the author?s fresh, powerful prose. Don?t read this novel if you are looking for a strong compelling story leading to a definite conclusion. This is not that type of novel. This is a subtle, unflinchingly honest view of life in all its complexity. It is a book about coming to terms with the reality of human isolation and cruelty. It?s about making peace with the dark core of humanity. My eyes brimmed with tears when I finished this novel?not with sadness, but with acceptance and truth.
  • (5/5)
    Alice Winston struggles to understand love, families, ?broken promises and dreams that don?t come true.? Her mother is upstairs staring out the window, her dad is collecting abused horses while bills pile up, and her sister, Patty Jo, (the star of the family and the stable?s only hope for notoriety), has run off with a rodeo bull rider. The voice of Alice is stark and mature as she observes how people move and react around each other. The horses reflect back much of the human foibles and personalities and their treatment or mistreatment is heartwarming and heart wrenching. All the characters are pressing through life with determination but most don?t really know what they?re reaching for. There?s a need and a craving in everyone that Kyle expresses with subtlety and depth without being maudlin. The combination of the horses, the struggle to do the right thing, and the dysfunctional family made the story seem a bit like The Horse Whisperer and All the Pretty Horses meet Little Miss Sunshine.
  • (5/5)
    I fully expected this to be a mediocre book, and yet found myself sobbing at the end. Kyle writes her young narrator's voice with style and sensitivity. Her emotions become yours, her loneliness and isolation felt by you. You share her joys and triumphs and her fears. I would highly recommend this book, even if you don't care a fig for horses (and I really don't)!
  • (4/5)
    Alice is a teen coming of age on a horse ranch which has fallen on hard times. In even worse shape than the ranch is her family. Her mother is deeply depressed, her sister has run off with a cowboy, and it's left to Alice to help her father take care of everything and everyone. A sad, but compelling read.
  • (5/5)
    The writing is fresh, realistic, and thoroughly enjoyable. Kyle doesn't take the easy way out of situations or fall back on cliches. It was my best read in months, and I can only hope for more from her.Audio narrator Lillian Rabe was fantastic.
  • (5/5)
    I thought this was a well written coming-of-age novel.
  • (3/5)
    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, bed-ridden mother; a reticent, overworked father, and a run-down horse farm.
  • (5/5)
    Nearly a perfect book. Beautiful heartbreaking writing, pitch-perfect rendering of a 12 year old girl's point of view. I immediately wanted, as one review said, to share it with everyone I knew.