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The God of Animals

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  5,113 Ratings  ·  982 Reviews
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 ...more
Audio CD - Narrated by Lily Rabe
Published March 20th 2007 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2007)
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despite its bold, college-sports-team cover colors, i would probably never have picked this book up if i hadn't needed to read a recent spur-award-winner for my beloved readers' advisory class. but, dammit, if it wasn't the most enjoyable thing i have read in a while. and i know that lately i have been slapping a ton of reviews up here, and y'all are sick of my stupid opinions, but heed me one more time: this book is crazy-good. greg, fonso, mfso - feel free to ignore me here, but ladies, come a
Mar 16, 2008 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book surprised me. I'm not into horse books, and be warned: this is a horse book. However, it's also really good. Aryn Kyle is an amazing writer. I think she's younger than me too, so I'm pretty jealous.

What I really appreciate about this book is how complex the characters are. The protagonist is not always kind or honest, but she is strong and brave without being too much of a plucky Heidi type. She feels sorry for herself, which I think the heroines of young adult books have an annoying
Sep 06, 2007 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want an engaging and bittersweet read
Shelves: fiction
When I started to list the themes in this book, they were an awful dismal lot: abandonment, betrayal, secrecy and yearning. However, somehow there was this sense of hope and beauty throughout this book as well. Alice, a seventh grader opens her eyes to the world set against the backdrop of her family's ranch. This isn't a "Lassie" view of a ranch either. The harsh realities of trying to make a go of it persist as Alice's mother has permanently retired to her room, her sister has run off and Alic ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ayrn Kyle's book came into my hands at the right time, and I simply could not put it down. It stirred heartbreak deep within me, and I wept for Alice, the young narrator of this lovely book. The sadness is imbedded deep inside the story, subtle and graphic at the same time. The story is so rich and compelling that it threw me into its fast, rhythmic pace. Yet I wanted to slow down, practically begged Kyle to give me a break in the action to let her soulful and beautiful prose seep in to me.

"Childhood is never over, not really...the places we come from don't leave us as easily as we leave them."

When her older sister Nona elopes with a rodeo cowboy, Alice is left behind with her dysfunctional parents on the family's run-down horse ranch. Alice's father is overworked and struggling to make a living; Alice's mother is clinically depressed and never leaves her bedroom. Alice's home life is tough and isolating, so she seeks connections elsewhere. Her experience of the adult world, with
Jan 16, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic! Totally underrated in my opinion. I love a good coming of age story and this was one of the best I've read. Told through the eyes of 12 year old Alice we learn about the Winston family and all their troubles on a horse ranch in Desert Valley Colorado. The book opens with Alice talking about the death of a classmate who drowned in a canal. Her dad pulled out the dead body, as part of a makeshift sheriff posse. Her dad is the owner of the horse ranch and her mother stays in her room eve ...more
Aug 24, 2007 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who do not need a happy ending
Alice Winston is a 12 year-old girl whose dysfunctional and isolated family life has left her unable to cope when a classmate of her dies. Her father, Joe Winston, a horseman with too many of his own problems to worry about his daughter's, leaves her emotionally starved and physically overburdened. He doesn't notice as her clothes become too small and too tight and expects her to muck the horse stalls, take care of the horses and help out with her clinically depressed mother who hasn't left her ...more
Mar 27, 2008 Christina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 21, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Winston family is falling apart. The mother handed over baby Alice to her older sister and retreated to her bedroom where she has stayed for twelve years and Alice’s father is a harsh and distant man, choosing to fill his life with his livelihood, training horses and giving riding lesssons.. Alice is set adrift when her sister runs away to marry a rodeo rider and she seeks to fill the void by trying to gain the attention of her father, classmates and a teacher, with unexpected results. This ...more
I've had this on my 'to read' list for many months and the library was always out so I figured, 'wow, must be great' and yes... overall the story held my attention and the writing was really above par, but I didn't close the book and spend anytime contemplating it. I think the characters were well thought out and the story was interesting. It is told from the point of view of a pretty mature 12 year old whose family owns a horse farm that is slowly burning out and how this affects her and the pe ...more
Rebecca McNutt
I loved this book. It has similar themes to My Friend Flicka and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and it's both imaginative and creative, telling the story of a girl who finds a love for horses amidst her dysfunctional family.
Melinda Worfolk
Feb 06, 2013 Melinda Worfolk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013
This book reminded me of one of those young adult "problem novels" I used to read as a kid--the ones that featured any one (or combination) of the following: drug addiction, neglect, abuse, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, family dysfunction, mental illness, or terminal illness.

The writing was quite good, but I didn't find the characters to be particularly well drawn. The protagonist, 12-year-old Alice, is probably the best developed of all of them, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Her life
May 13, 2008 Visha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Messer, Hillary, Erin, Susan
Reasons why Aryn Kyle and I will one day braid each others' hair:

1. I am currently growing my hair out and she already (judging from her ultra-adorable author photo) has long hair.

2. We both like horseys and place is important in our writing (for me, the South; for her, the West)

3. Our work has so many resonantingly similar themes that when I finished The G of A, I put the book down and sobbed - because the end of the book is sad, sure, but also because I suddenly wondered why the hell I was wor
Sonia Reppe
This is a realistic coming-of-age story set in death valley. Alice and her family make a living off their horse ranch. There is a lot of work for Alice and her dad when her sister leaves with a boyfriend. THIS BOOK ISN'T REALLY ABOUT HORSES, even though Alice's relationship with these animals is one of the wonderful things about this story. This beautifully written tale is about hard work, man vs. nature, taking chances, and compassion. There is a lot of involvement with horses, because the fami ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Mia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl, The God of Animals tells the story of Alice Winston, who is dealing with her older sister and role model running off and getting married, the growing distance between herself and her parents and the death of a classmate she never knew.


+ A quick read. It definitely made the time go by faster on a long road trip.
+ The final scene was heartbreaking.
+ I've been a horse lover my whole life, so the subject matter was definitely right u
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 29, 2013 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
so, i would never have picked up this book had it not been for so many positive reviews for it here on goodreads, especially this one. The cover is really awful, the description didn't really grab me,and I have no particular interest in horses (other than Heartland obvs), but I enjoyed this so much! it's so great! It just has a really great style to it, so that it doesn't really matter what Aryn Kyle is writing about, I was there.

It's narrated by a 12 year old girl who is totally believable - sh
Mar 21, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And here it is - the fiftieth book I read on my commute. Started the new job mid-June of '07, and by the end of March '08, nine and a half months later, I have fifty more books taking up mental shelf space. Most of them pretty good, too.

The word that kept recurring to me over and over again as I read The God of Animals was "sad". It is a book about sad things - the economic problems of the hard-working lower class, the awkwardness of early adolescence, the devastation of failed marriages, both t
Sep 06, 2007 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I've never liked a book so much at the beginning and been so disappointed in it in the end. The first 100 pages of this novel are amazing. But in the end, the author falters. I understand that it originally started out as a short story, and Kyle is simply not able to maintain the narrative when expanding it to novel length. The story becomes repetitive, as does the language. The descriptions of character emotions become strained and overwrought while the characters themselves simultaneously beco ...more
Apr 17, 2008 Rafe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The back of the book says that Alice, the narrator, stands in the company of the girls from To Kill a Mockingbird and Member of the Wedding, and while this is true, it makes the book overall sound more Bildungsroman than is maybe the case. I thought it was more like a combination of The Lovely Bones and The Red Pony -- which my sister said sounds like as much fun as a slipper full of tacks. She maybe has a point, but despite the sorrow left behind by the roller coaster of a plot, not to mention ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Jodie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This book was beautiful. The characters were so perfectly constructed, wonderfully flawed and totally 3 dimensional. Alice, the star of this book, is a young girl with a very difficult home and school life, absolutely pining for affection and a connection to humanity. Her older sister has run off, her mum sits locked away in a dark room, deeply depressed and cut off from the world whilst her dad is a horse trainer with dubious methods learnt from his father. The farm is struggling as is he, and ...more
Lindsey Culli
May 21, 2007 Lindsey Culli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel started as a short-story. The characters and the landscape are so compelling. The main character, Alice Winston, is a lonely 12-year old girl living with her family in Desert Valley, Colorado. Her mother is clinically depressed and rarely leaves her room, her 16-year old sister eloped and her father is emotionally unavailable as he works to keep the family's ranch operating. The novel opens with, "Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married ...more
Sep 05, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone looking for a good coming-of-age story
here's the thing: i hate horses. i don't find them pretty or awe-inspiring. i don't want to ride them. i don't like how smelly they are. that being said, this book is about a young girl growing up on a horse farm and i freaking loved it. it's incredibly well-written and an auspicious debut by the author. i will definitely be on the lookout for her next book. this book was a wonderful surprise, i highly recommend it.
Aug 31, 2013 Ashburygirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly the most terrible thing I've ever read. Think of very terrible thing a human can do, especially blatant animal cruelty, and it's either there or alluded to. I can't unread this book, but I wish I could. I have never had such a reaction to ANYTHING. Not even Elie Weisel.
Apr 15, 2009 Tamra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down - loved the raw perspective of the 12 yr old girl combined with farm life.

Has anyone else started it?
Bookmarks Magazine

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 clich_

Feb 02, 2011 Christie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-reads
Is there a litmus test for whether or not we like a book? At book club last night, where we discussed our first book of 2009, The God Of Animals by Aryn Kyle, we asked the question: would you recommend this book to a friend? The answers were varied and that’s even after we had a very lively discussion of the book’s merits (and there were a few.)

The God of Animals begins with the death of 12 year old Polly Cain. It’s a riveting scene in which we learn not only of Polly’s death but also several ot
Open Loop Press
Jan 04, 2009 Open Loop Press rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interviews
A run-down ranch, a family divided by chasms in close proximity, an immersive, increasingly untenable way of life — “The God of Animals” is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, but it is also the story of a disappearing lifestyle once crucial to the American narrative: work on the land, the horse and its rider, survival because of, in spite of the natural world.

“The people who lived on our side of town had been born here, and their parents before them. There were no new restaurants, no clean w
Oct 12, 2009 Raina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Whenever a friend is reading a book, the first question out of our mouths usually is, "What is it about?". The truth is, it doesn't matter. What makes a book good has nothing to do with what it's about. What makes a book good is the talent of the writer. Case in point, "The God of Animals". This is the second best book I've read this year (the first being "How to Breathe Under Water"). And I don't even like horses! But it doesn't matter. The author made me care about horses because she created a ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Shirley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-read
The setting, at least for an East Coast habitue, is what saves this book. The author takes us into the world of horse ranches with all of its pressures. There are many kinds of competitions that riders prepare for; many do not simply have horse to ride on occasion.

As a coming of age story, it doesn't break new ground, and, in fact, reifies many gender stereotypes. Girls are fascinated with horses in their pre-teen years; girls have secret crushes on male teachers;girls have petty struggles with
Apr 22, 2008 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
The God of Animals is a coming-of-age story about a girl, Alice, who lives on a ranch in Colorado. Basically I picked up this book for one reason: horses. Yes, that's right, I dig horse stories. But I found myself pleasantly surprised by the story and the development of the characters, especially Alice. Life on a ranch is often romantized in literature... Yet this story told some gruesome truths about what happens when you can't pay the bills, the animals become sick or wounded, and people lose ...more
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Aryn Kyle graduated from the University of Montana writing program. In 2004 her short story Foaling Season, now the first chapter of this novel, won a National Magazine Award for Fiction for The Atlantic Monthly. Kyle spent most of her childhood in Grand Junction, Colorado, and now lives in New York City.
More about Aryn Kyle...

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“That was the problem with getting used to people - you had to miss them when they were gone.” 14 likes
“But the places we come from don't leave us as easily as we leave them.” 13 likes
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