Christina's Reviews > The God of Animals

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
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's review
Mar 27, 2008

did not like it
Read in March, 2008

** spoiler alert ** Update, 6/2/08: I've changed my mind and am going with a 1. I see this title popping up in various places, and I'd hate for anyone else to read it without first being warned.

Animal lovers alert!!! Let's just say I took one for the team here. If you're not convinced you should avoid it, let me know. Apparently, there IS no god of animals.

Actually, everyone kind-hearted should avoid this and if you doubt me, just read the last sentence before anything else. I can't really think of a more depressing book that I've read lately. This reads like a Steinbeck work (specifically, "The Pony"), which should be a clue that things aren't gonna go good. The similarities to Steinbeck really bothered me (among other things, from gender b.s. to pathetic characters).

And it sure felt like an assigned reading piece ... I can hear the questions now: "How is the weather like a character in this novel? Give examples." or "Can you point out several instances of foreshadowing?" and so forth.

So is it a 2 because I was so emotionally distressed or because it was a bad book? Is it fair to give it a 2 if the quality of writing was good (after all, I did keep reading to the bitter -- and I do mean BITTER!! -- end.) I've been twisting the ratings idea around and around. Yeah. Hated this, even if it was hard to put down. I'll stick with the 2.

One final comment. She dedicated this book to her mother. Wow. Thanks.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Deborah Christina - I understand your problem with the book, it's really hard for an animal lover like myself to read about the cruelty and lack of connection to and with the horses. That mindset exists in that world and that business, and I feel Kyle did a very good job of portraying it, unflinchingly, without judgment. She also presents wonderful instances of connection and empathy, as with Nona's relationship with the Palomino and Alice's father's rescuing of "the Old Men." I think a lot of the mother's depression stemmed from her inability to reconcile the two sides of the business and the reality of a "horsy" life. The sad fact is that, in our less that perfect world, when a business centers on animals, and that business has to provide a livlihood for a family, gray areas abound. I think all animal lovers should read this book. When you understand the realities of a situation, you can work for true and effective change, as opposed to pie-in-the-sky idealism. Don't quite get your antipathy to Steinbeck, though.

Christina Hi Deborah;

Yes, I had a hard time with this because of its starkness. It's also a world of animals of which I am NOT familiar. I have very little experience with horses. However, I do know a lot about other animal worlds and understand your very valid point about having to understand something fully to really be able to affect change, as well as how there is no black and white when a family must make its living in an animal-related industry.

I don't agree, though, that pie-in-the-sky idealism is ineffective *or* false. While such idealism can set someone up for a fall, it also breeds passion and activism. I think finding a personal balance is the real key to successful involvement as well as self-preservation.

And I really don't believe that animal lovers should read this. If you love animals it's for a reason, and there's little need to be beaten (horse whipped?) with despair. It's like I remember one time coming across a PETA magazine. In the middle was a catalog for the items they sell, including these shocking posters depicting animals in various states of slaughter. If you're a subscriber to this magazine, you love animals. So why do you want to see the depravity that's done to them? You know about it, your kind heart and idealism lead you to want to help, and you don't need to be convinced. It's that whole preaching to the choir thing.

It's been a little while since I read the book, but I have no doubt the mom's extremely severe depression grew from her inability to reconcile her worlds. I'm still unable to elevate the few instances of emphathy to anywhere near the depths of despair this work imparts.

And Steinbeck. Eh. I've never been a fan. Just a personal thing.

Thanks for reading and responding! I enjoy the interactions.

Take care!

message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I could not agree with Christina's review more! I read this story waiting for God to show up (and I'm not that religious). What I was left with was a very bad few days going back to some of the story's horrific events mercilessly told. Yes, the writing was indeed good. But the brutal treatment of God's creatures - beautiful young horses - was very diffucult to bear. The ending of this story was so agonizing that I really didn't care what happened to our little protagonist (I am assuming she went on to college). I was left berefit by the gratuitous cruelty and hopelessness of the tale, and am very sorry I read it. I feel this young new writer went too far showing off her talent to the point that the reader, well misses the point, if in fact there is one.

Kristen I found the ending to be heartbreaking and also didn't care much about the protagonist. However, the writing and story was completely compelling, so it seems critics should be assigning stars based on how good the writing, story, character-development, etc. was and not how good it made them feel.

Anna Most people aren't comfortable reading about animal abuse. As an animal lover, I'm certainly not. I don't think the intent was to create a comfortable reading atmosphere, but just the opposite. I love books that take something that seems so black and white and swirl it around in my brain so that it feels a little grayer than it did before. The discomfort I felt while reading this ultimately made the book more meaningful to me.

message 6: by Adi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Thank you. I thought this was an ugly retread of a Steinbeck horror, and as someone who grew up around horses (and the people who make money off them) I was put off that the horses are more scenery than characters, when people were calling this "a horse book". Um, no. The metaphor was painfully obvious and sophomoric, and none of the characters were relatable, let alone likable. Ugh.

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