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The Heaven of Animals

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,017 ratings  ·  203 reviews
In each of the stories in this remarkable debut, award-winning writer David James Poissant explores the tenuous bonds of family—fathers and sons, husbands and wives—as they are tested by the sometimes brutal power of love.

His strikingly true-to-life characters have reached a precipice, chased there by troubles of their own making. Standing at the brink, each must make a ch
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Simon Schuster (first published August 27th 2010)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,017 ratings  ·  203 reviews

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Joachim Stoop
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i WaS tHinkiNg HoW TO graB everyOne's aTTenTion toWardS this bOOk.
A bOOk for wHicH I woulD almOst loWer somE of mY 5 stAr bOOks to 4 stArs. And mY 4 stArs to 3.
I hAte to EncoUnteR aLL CAPS-LOCK poStS on peOple's FB and GR, so I hOpe thiS Strange varIAtion in lower and UPPER caseS can HOLD your scroLLing and DRAG you into The mOsT wonDerful of mAzes.

ThiS Story CoLLectiOn iS tHE beSt I'Ve evEr reAd, MaybE aCCepT from BorGes' FaNTasTic STorieS bUt thaT's sOrt of Hors CatEGOry.

I WANt to Scream abou
I love short stories.

I try to read one every day.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I KNOW short stories, and this is a FANTASTIC collection.

The first story, Lizard Man, is a tale of fathers and sons that also involves two pals on a mission who end up rescuing an ailing alligator using oven mitts and some duct tape. I was laughing my head off at their escapades, but I was in tears by the end of the tale...and NOT because the gator dies. (view spoiler)

One of the cha
Larry H
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Do yourself a favor: pick up this story collection. Now. You'll be moved, overwhelmed, touched, and blown away by these stories. Do it.

After finishing David James Poissant's debut collection, The Heaven of Animals, last night, first I marveled at just how powerful these stories were, and how much I enjoyed them. And then I remembered, no matter how challenging my life might feel from time to time, I am tremendously fortunate to have fewer problems than the characters in these stories. Man, in ma
What a knockout debut short story collection. I realize I’ve listed it under an absurd number of categories, but that’s because it really does have it all: pathos, sarcasm, humor and wisdom; multiple narrative techniques; characters who whine, flub and crash, but also sparkle and atone. Most of the stories are set in the South (Atlanta, Florida, Tucson), but they also branch into the Midwest and California – a geographical range that matches the emotional scope.

“Lizard Man” and “Amputee,” the fi
Tayari Jones
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am now such a fan! This one isn’t out yet, but I managed to get my hot little hands on a review copy from NetGaley. The first story, Lizard Man, knocked. my. socks. off. Poisssant has a way of using premises that may make your roll your eyes, and then sneak up on you, knock you over the head and steal your heart. Example with Lizard Man: these two down on their luck dudes go on a roadie because one of the dude’s deadbeat dad has died. When they get there, they try and kidnap this alligator. (I ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A few birdies told me this was a BOOK **A-To-READ**! Thank you to several of my Goodread Friends for the recommendation! I'm sooooooooo glad I didn't miss reading these stories!

I've been hitting the ball 'outside-the-park' lately discovering new talented writers with their 'debut' storytelling. WOW!!!! wow! wow!

'David James Poissant' is an author I'll remember. These short stories are gloriously authentic --tender-touching -morally complex stories of troubled souls--a mixture of hard reality a
Scott Rhee
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I had never read anything by David James Poissant prior to "The Heaven of Animals", mainly because I don't subscribe to magazines anymore.

I used to subscribe to the following: Playboy, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, GQ, and Esquire. I stopped subscribing mainly because I couldn't catch up to them. I was the type who had to read cover to cover, every article, even the ones that didn't really interest me that much, just because. Seriously, though, if Lorrie Moore wrote an article on soyb
Marylee MacDonald
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates vividly drawn scenes
For years, I've mined One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for techniques to keep my characters firmly rooted in their bodies. Yes, we humans think. We mull over our options and, like dung beetles, push along our mud-balls of worry. However, we are also animals--cave dwellers, really. The creature comforts of cuddling with a partner reward us with essential moments of well being.

"I sat down, and she moved close, rested her head on my shoulder, an intimacy I hadn't known in weeks. Something fun
Philippe Malzieu
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I always supervise the news in the American literature. Sometimes it is boring because it feels too litterary workshop. But in fact,it is often interesting. And since Maupassant I like the short novel. The art is difficult and this kind of book is not so frequent. The last one I read is the Russel Banks.
The theme is animals but it is a way to observe the human. The last one is uppseting, the father who has rejected his gay son and who wants to be made forgive.
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
My goodness. This book destroyed me. I don't know if the author was writing deliberately to punch his readers in the soft spots opened by loss and grief, or if his writing was just so honest and clean that it couldn't be avoided. There is nothing easy about reading these stories, but I couldn't stop because they were good. Difficult? Yes. Worthwhile? Yes.
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
I typically hate the reviews for books of short stories on Goodreads. They are so repetitive - there's the person who typically hates short stories but..., there's the person who doesn't know why they picked this up because they hate short stories, there's the person who feels like the author left them hanging at the end of each short story and this is why they hate short stories --- you get my point. I guess that's why I try to explain a low rating of short stories.

This short story collection d
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are some real gems in David James Poissant’s Heaven of Animals, but perhaps none more so than the bookmark stories – the first and last.

In the opening story, The Lizard Man, we meet Dan, an impulse-control-challenged father who violently throws his teenage son Jack through a glass window after witnessing him kissing a boy. Years later, he helps his friend Cam – also the victim of parental abuse – wrest a giant sick prehistoric alligator (representing the Freudian id) into their truck to se
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love to read all types of fiction, from pulpy genre stuff for young adults (yes, I enjoy Harry Potter)to mainstream literary bestsellers (I've enjoyed many novels by Ian McEwan).
I also subscribe to the New Yorker, and read short stories in Harper's.
The problem with a lot of short stories is that they're, well...boring.
The problem with a lot of story collections is that they're not cohesive--the stories don't form a whole. Or, the opposite--they're too cohesive, and thus almost a "novel of vig
Ceillie Simkiss
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
In this masterful debut, an award-winning writer and first-rate storyteller explores the tenuous bonds of family—fathers and sons, husbands and wives—as they are tested by the sometimes brutal power of love. In each of the stories in this remarkable collection, David James Poissant delivers a moving portrayal of a relationship in turmoil. His strikingly true-to-life characters have reached a precipice, chased there by troubles of their own making. Some stand frightened, some ready to fight. Some ...more
Kenneth Oms
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've never been a good reviewer by any means. So I will keep this short and sweet. I read a lot and I watch a lot of movies, but nothing has made my heart speed up, my eyes tear up, or made me pause and recollect my thoughts more than this terrific piece of literature. David James Poissant is a very talented writer, who will move you with every story in this collection. The characters all feel like living breathing beings, whose dilemmas will pull you in, and at the end of the story you'll find ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable. In these pages you will meet many troubled people, each struggling with the enormity of life's challenges. They will make you laugh, cry, but most of all, they will open themselves to let you use their lenses, so that the world you perceive grows in every direction a little more. There are parallels between some tales (for example, the elementary school and neighborhood in "Refund" & "Disappearing Boy" are the same) and Dan & Jack populate the first and last stories, but what is ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is really an extraordinarily good collection of stories. Poissant dissects the relationships between his characters with an unerring skill. The collection is bookended by two linked stories about Dan and his son Jack, from whom he has become estranged after throwing him through a window when he found out Jack was gay. His attempts to make up for his reaction are heart-rending and the ending is almost unbearably sad, but both stories are laced with a humour and a madcappery that perfectly ba ...more
Jacqueline Masumian
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Heaven of Animals by award-winning author David James Poissant is one of those short story collections in which, as soon as you've read one of the stories, you immediately turn the page to start the next. His characters, all wrestling with damaged relationships, break the reader's heart. Fathers and sons, young married couples, rivaling brothers, and would-be lovers all try to come to grips with their dreams and their failings, massaging their despair until they manage to find a way through ...more
Carey Blankenship
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh boy. I honestly feel like these short stories aren't for the faint of heart, but that doesn't mean their terrible. No, in fact, all of the stories in this collection are so well done, so full of imagery and complicated stories and realistic characters, that I'll be recommending this collection to all of my reading friends. Some of the subject matters left me feeling a bit heavy. They were heart-wrenching, dark, difficult to get through, some disturbing, but the lessons at each end of them alw ...more
Burrow Press
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
BP has published a short story by the author, and we consider him a friend of the press, but, beyond those items of disclosure, the writing speaks for itself. There's a diversity of stories in this book that show off Poissant's range and talent, from realism to weird, and funny to heartbreaking. Poissant is one of those vital authors who can juggle wit and sentiment and make it all come together and do what fiction does at its best.
John Fleming
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous debut collection from David James Poissant. The writing is assured, insightful, often beautiful. Animals make unexpected appearances and sometimes play key roles in the plot. Surreal flash fictions are mixed in with the longer, realistic short stories. Though the stories aren't linked in the usual sense, it's a collection so well-organized I recommend reading it straight through. You'll care deeply for the characters. You'll be moved and awed. I was.
Artis Henderson
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm still thinking about these masterful tales. Each of the characters felt so real, so true, that it seemed as if the author was telling me stories from his own life. There is no artifice here. Just excellent storytelling.
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book lives up to its accolades! Although I am novel reader first and foremost, there is a place in my life for short stories and these just hit the spot. Thought-provoking and tantalizing! Thanks for another awesome Goodreads giveaway book.
Rambling Reader
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Remarkable stories. Looking forward to more stories from this writer.
Oct 05, 2014 added it
A captivating collection of short stories--witty and unpredictable.
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was tough to read. Hard and gritty subjects.
The author takes it to the bone.
I wanted to stop reading at several points but the excellent writing kept me going.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Each of the short stories in this collection packed some type of emotional gut punch. The title story was particularly intense. The author has a way of using language to capture truths and emotions in a powerful way. The stories tend to be very engaging, often bordering on lyrical, and then they end with impact. The thread running through the collection is primarily about the complexity of relationship Very well written.
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Throughout this book I kept coming back to the same thought: David James Poissant must be a remarkably nice guy. Such a remarkably nice guy, he can't even bear to let one of his characters be an asshole.

The Heaven of Animals is Poissant's first published collection, stories tied together around the theme of relationships with animals as metaphor for relationships with people. Fathers and sons, fathers and soon-to-be-ex-wives, husbands and ex-wives, husbands and dead wives, wives and soon-to-be-d
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
First Reads Review - The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant

When I received this through the GoodReads First Reads program, I didn't know exactly what to expect. The stories are literary, not exactly the most realistic but not speculative at all. They are gripping, and compelling, and the characters feel real and flawed. The premises of the stories tend to revolve around the white, suburban ideal. And I get that and like that. Having grown up in that sort of environment I saw the commentar
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