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This is a review of the 2007 book 'The God of Animals' by Aryn Kyle. It is described as a 'Coming of Age' book and was bought as a gift for me at Christmas. I don't think it would be one I would have chosen if I was buying but I do like reading a wide range of books and feel a new topic can broaden the mind if you are open to it.
A book about Alice
In The God of Animals, the main narrator is 12 year old Alice Winson who lives on her Dad's Ranch in the Desert (USA). It's a town where not much happens so the death of one her school mates in the local canal is big news for Alice and preys on her mind. Her sister Nona has run off with a Cowboy and she misses her too. Her Dad is struggling to make ends meet on the Ranch and Alice's mother has been in bed all her life and won't get out.
Something happen ... please!
I spent the whole 420 pages of this book really waiting for something to happen. It went into great detail about horse shows and Alice's limits where her horsemanship skills were concerned.
The book seemed to delight in cruel details about owning, training and accidents with horses. I didn't enjoy reading about this and it did upset me a bit. My sister's a horsey girl and she assures me that a lot of the things in the book were not generally practiced in the UK. There is even a section on gelding - cross your legs now gents - which I'd rather not think about.
Alice is a clever and quiet 12 year old who quickly develops a crush on her English teacher in the book. Whilst he doesn't ever encourage her, he doesn't dissuade her either and it is unnerving that he lets her call her at home at night time to chat the night away (while she sits in her sister's closet on the phone so no one else can hear!). There are some twins in the town who are Alice's age but their dad runs the rival ranch so her father does not want her going anywhere near them.
When Alice's sister comes back, Alice has real mixed feelings about her and her husband. You get the feeling that they were really close growing up but Nona has drifted away and lost interest in her sister since she met her man.
This is the name Alice and her pal Sheila give to the ladies who keep their horses in the Winson's barn. They are posh ladies who have horses as a hobby and Alice struggles to understand why they are here and objects to them taking over their barn. Her father shrugs it off as a necessary evil for keeping the Ranch turning over and doesn't take much notice of his daughter's dislike.
I found this on Amazon: (about the book) "If you love animals, prepare to have your heart broken" (Telegraph & Argus ) and I think this is true. It really is quite graphic and cruel in parts.
More detail please
I did feel there was something missing in this book. Perhaps it was that some of the mystery surrounding Alice's mother could have been explained better. We never get to the true reason she stays in her room almost all the time.
I do think it's OK if you don't like everything you read. I must admit, I was glad to finish this book so that I could pick up something more to my own taste. I am not a quitter when it comes to reading and don't give up easily but I really did not enjoy some of the detail this book goes into. I don't think a horse -lover would either. Although it is described as a coming of age novel I didn't engage with the text as I would normally. Perhaps this is down to cultural differences but it's not a book I will be recommending to friends to read.
PS. My book had a reading group section at the back with notes and summary of the book. I read through this section with mild interest as I had plodded through the book but it was not something I hope to discuss with any peers.