We the Animals
By Justin Torres
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mariner Books, 2012
I was swept away by the brevity of this book and the powerfully rendered language.
Three brothers grow up hungry and poor in a small town in upstate New York. Their parents had their first son at ages 14 and 16 and took the bus to Texas to get married, because 14-year olds could not marry in New York State. But although their parents love each other, they do not get along. The father is violent and the mother dependent, to cope the boys create fantastical worlds of their own. This is a classic coming of age story, told from the POV of the youngest son as he grows from about age 7 to 17. The book sets itself apart with its razor sharp language and poetic chapters that reminded me of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.
This book was greeted with universal acclaim when it came out in 2011. If you didn’t pick it up at the time, I highly recommend it. It’s a spare book that will send a chill up your spine.
Torres recently finished a year-long fellowship at Radcliffe.
I bought this book at Powell’s, during a recent trip to Portland, OR.