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The Animals

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  750 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Bill Reed manages a wildlife sanctuary in rural Idaho, caring for injured animals raptors, a wolf, and his beloved bear, Majer, among them that are unable to survive in the wild. Seemingly rid of his troubled past, Bill hopes to marry the local veterinarian and live a quiet life together, the promise of which is threatened when a childhood friend is released from prison. ...more
Hardcover, 314 pages
Published March 23rd 2015 by Liveright (first published March 16th 2015)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  750 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Kiefer’s second novel contrasts wildness and civilization through the story of a man who runs an animal refuge to escape from his criminal past. “What you have come for is death.” The second-person address and sobering message make for a jolting start. A gritty opening sequence establishes themes that will be essential to the novel: the fine line between instincts and decisions, the moral dilemmas involved in environmentalism, and the seeming inescapability of violence. As the novel alternates ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I absolutely loved this book. Bill Reed is an excellent protagonist, quite flawed but you feel for the guy. THE ANIMALS is a novel about love, hope, redemption, and revenge. A poignant meditation on trying to live an independent life and yet also trying to escape the past. Christian Kiefer is one hell of a writer. Highly recommended.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, nature
The bad news is that I finished The Animals; the good news is that Christian Kiefer has written another novel that I'm racing to the library to get as soon as I finish writing this.

I came across The Animals when I read the Kirkus review: I became slightly obsessed with finding the book to read right now and ended up buying an ARC on ebay. Even though I questioned my impatience at the time, the $17.99 I spent has provided me with more value than I would
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Into the Distance A Ribbon of Black, Stretched to the Point of No Turning Back" [Pink Floyd, Learning to Fly, 1986]

The dark past seems to be overtaking Bill Reed, who thought he'd escaped the consequences of his youthful past in Reno after he moved to rural Idaho and assumed a new identity. The novel travels back and forth from Reed's present peaceful plans for wedded bliss with the lovesome local veterinarian back in time to the events leading up to the major mistakes made in his youth. Mr.
Wendy Cosin
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have never selected a book to read based on a cocktail before. A local bookstore manager invented a Blind Bear in honor of The Animals, which he recommended highly, so I dutifully bought absinthe and mixed the drink after plucking the book from my replete shelf. The drink was ok; the book is very very good. I can’t say it better than the Kirkus review: “This is a novel about duality: the loyalty and betrayal of friendship; the freedom and imprisonment of the spririt; the wild connection ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Over a decade after leaving behind a crime-ridden past, Bill Reed lives a quiet life tending to an animal sanctuary in Idaho. Opened by his uncle, the sanctuary is home to injured wildlife that have helped rescue Bill just as much as he helped them. Despite attempts to forget his past, when a childhood friend is released from prison, Bill is forced to face the actions he took and decisions he made so many years before.

From the first lines of its haunting opening, written in second-person
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have an advance copy of this March 2015 title, and it is a winner. When I say it's a literary thriller, I'm not damning it with faint praise or saying it's betwixt and between; I mean that it's very literary (carefully wrought prose, poetic sensibility, deep characterizations of the protagonists; it's a book, not a "read") and that its very thrilling, with some suspense about the main character's story and a violent confrontation with very real danger, and not just danger of the emotional ...more
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the devastating first pages of The Animals, we meet the quintessential likable character – Bill Reed, a sensitive loner who devotes his life to caring for gravely injured or mangled animals in the isolated Idaho backlands. He’s everyone’s idea of a hero: saving animal lives, keeping company with the local veterinarian and acting as dad to her young son, and living a principled life on his own terms.

But through a series of flashbacks, we discover that Bill is not all he seems. He’s on the run
Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-releases
There's nothing better than a book that surprises you. When I started reading this I was sort of in a phase where I was over books about guys having feelings about things and not doing much. I wanted aliens is basically what I was trying to say. But The Animals roped me right back into literary fiction. Not only was it beautifully written, it was thrilling, page-turning, and ultimately heartbreaking.

At the beginning of the book, it's sort of hard to place the characters within a time or place.

This turned out to be a pretty good book, but I got to be frank: the first half sucked. At one point, I was actually considering abandoning it. I'm glad I didn't, though.

I'm no fan of the format the author employed to tell this story: alternating chapters of the past and present. That's so overdone, I think. Though, I should give this guy some credit: he did a good job in the second half of wringing out every last bit of advantage the format offers, and ended up with a pretty solid
Jessica Jeffers
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book kind of felt like the weirdly verbose, hypermasculine love child of a Hawthorne novel and a Hemingway novel. It was interesting and compelling but, I actually stopped reading towards the end because (view spoiler) That's something I just can't do. I realized what was going to happen and I skimmed the last forty pages or so. I think it's a good book otherwise, an interesting character study that others ...more
My book club was divided about empathy for the two childhood friends, Rick and Nat, and it was fascinating to hear each person's reasoning in favor of the character for whom she had the most compassion. It's always a joy to read and discuss a work of literary fiction that provokes spirited, diverse reactions. Kiefer is an exquisite writer, full of descriptive language that evokes the western U.S. settings that he describes (Reno, Nevada, Battle Mountain, and rural Idaho). Kiefer also depicts the ...more
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Christian Kiefer writes the kinds of novels I want to read: stories of people in conflict with life, and, perhaps more profoundly, with themselves. "The Animals" is the story of one such person endeavoring as best he can to outrun his past, to build a new life after one of hardship, addiction, and questionable decisions. While the plot is arguably relatively straightforward (though rendered dynamic by shifts in time and point of view), the story has a keen eye and true concern for character, as ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, powerful, powerful book. So good. Perfect.

If you're not initially interested in the description of the plot or the reviews, let me say that this book is worth reading because of the writing. Specifically, the poetic description of the inner workings of the characters hearts and minds that we are privy to, and the cinematic observations of physical environment/setting are enough reason alone to read this book. It's as though the author pulls a part of you, the reader, out of your
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible book. Having just come off a Faulkner binge (Light in August, Sound and Fury, and As I Lay Dying), my reading expectations were high. Kiefer did not disappoint. I do not make this comparison lightly. This book is that level of good writing. In my opinion, The Animals is a tour de force of modern american pathos: our disconnection, our deep and secret guilt, our desire for redemption, and ultimately our need to survive it all. This novel is gut wrenching and beautiful, each ...more
Kc Giannini
Mar 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
Nope. Not a book I enjoyed at all. I didn't find the characters likable (although maybe that was the point). I didn't find the setting interesting. I didn't like the tone, pace or narration. The animals didn't even save this book. This book was the first book of the year that I really struggled through. I finished it in a week just to hurry up and be done with it.
Josh Lacy
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, book-shelf
This book is beautifully written, it will make you want to savor every sentence, reread them a couple of times, and let them tumble around in your head. I don't think I'll ever finish this book, because when I finish a chapter, I go back and reread it. I've read the first chapter alone 15 times. Go buy this book and enjoy a quality of writing that ascends mere storytelling into the world of art.
Leah Bayer
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is basically everything I wanted The Wolf Border to be. Animal & human storylines that actually parallel each other, rich writing, wonderful characters, a compelling plot... just amazing.
Joshua Buhs
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
What's here is good--conventional, though dressed up not to be: selfishly, I just wanted something different.

[Note the review has some spoilers, but, really, the tale's structure is such that nothing in it should come as a surprise. The conclusion may be tragic, but a large part of that tragedy is its predicability from about 1/4 of the way into the book.]

At its heart, Christian Kiefer's is an old-fashioned noir tale: a man is haunted by the sins of his past, which burden him even as he keep
Samuel Snoek-Brown
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sewanee-2015
It's hard to praise the powerful story Kiefer tells in this novel without spoiling the plot -- each chapter peels back layers of truths and untruths in such a carefully crafted way that I can't say much more about the story than the book jacket does without ruining the experience of peeling back those layers for yourself. Some will find that process frustrating, but I loved the hard reality of it.

What I can praise openly, though, is the prose. Kiefer is a master stylist, crafting gorgeous
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel is astonishing. It reminded me of Cormac McCarthy in exploring violence and connection and in weaving a mesmerizing spell with language. I kept reading quickly because I was in a dream state, but then I also kept going back over the sentences because they were so exquisite.

Others have written here about the story, so I'll just add a note on how powerful the sense of place was in the novel: the snowy woods, the desert, the bars. It all feels very real to me even as I've closed the book
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Brutally honest and straightforward and encapsulated in terms of philosophy by its construction and relentless progression toward its final events and lines, this book is not fun by any stretch, but it is really meaty and emotional without being melodramatic. The author has decided not to use the formal convention of quotation marks or any other traditional punctuation in order to indicate dialogue, and this serves to flatten all of the emotion that might be normally contained in certain ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars for this one, but will err on the side of "liked it".

It's a good enough story. I think I just found the main character, Bill/Nat, too passive. Yes, he's got baggage from his childhood, but I was annoyed with his attitude of just wanting everything bad to go away. Yawn.

I ended up skimming through a lot of pages, and I'm not particularly a fan of leaving out quotation marks and the ambiguous dialogues that result. It felt like the author was trying too hard.
Jim Laughren
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
The story has potential... it's just not particularly well-written, certainly far from compelling. Heavy on the purple prose; The Animals seems like a extended student exercise. The author gets caught up in devices and cliches which, in too many parts, make it a tiresome read. Find something else, there are too many wonderfully written books to spend time on B- efforts.
Blake Steele
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The language, assembly of plot, and uniqueness of setting are what set this novel apart from others of the same genre. Kiefer leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that do not completely reveal the outcome of events until the very end. The in depth research of all elements in this book are evident which allows a complete immersion into the novel. I now have a gambling addiction thanks to this book.
Eileen Mcclellan
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An extremely well written book.
Renée Roehl
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Way interesting structure to the book as the author takes nice risks, POV-wise; in parts Kiefer chooses second person POV, which is not that common, and it works well. The back and forth in time was pretty patterned but this also works as the book turns out to be a literary thriller. How fun!

There are too many things to say about what this book tackles concerning the human condition of relationships with animals, love relationships and especially male to male connections where Kiefer dove deep,
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Both Kiefer's physical and emotional landscapes are visceral. The sense of place here is riveting, including the mindscape of a captive grizzly bear. THE ANIMALS is a story of the unimaginable turns friendship can take. Do read.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just.. powerful. I’m going to have to digest this for awhile.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcl
That was intense!
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“I don’t care what you meant to do. I really don’t.
I only care about what you actually do. That’s important. The rest of it is just a bunch of bull shit.
--- Grace.”
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