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A Loving, Faithful Animal

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  80 reviews
It is New Year's Eve 1990, in a small town in southeast Australia. Ru's father, Jack, one of thousands of Australians once conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War, has disappeared. This time Ru thinks he might be gone for good. As rumors spread of a huge black cat stalking the landscape beyond their door, the rest of the family is barely holding on. Ru's sister, Lani, is t ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Catapult (first published February 24th 2016)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Michael Livingston
This started out like it was going to be just another portrait of a dysfunctional Australian family, told through the eyes of one of the children. Instead, Rowe smartly kicks things up a notch, by switching perspectives throughout the book, painting a much deeper and more nuanced portrait of some fascinating and damaged people. The majority of the book is set across a single day, before things telescope out in the later chapters - it's a neatly worked structure, that gives you both the small, me ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 stars

To say that I enjoyed reading this book would not be the right terminology, but I did enjoy reading the writing as a separate entity from the story itself. A family saga you could call this, dating back from a troubled young father, (abusive and irresponsible, potentially due to PTSD or potentially because he was just a nasty drunk) trying to cope with reality after the traumas of the Vietnam war. The family members each get a chapter to lay down their life experience and some of it was s
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A novel about post-war PTSD and its effects on a family. There is something about the prose that grabbed me and said "Listen to me! This is not as simple a story as you think!" And indeed, it wasn't just the usual tale about domestic violence and abandonment but surprisingly about redemption and reasons why and guiding you to see the other side of things that you might not have expected.
lark benobi
Gorgeous writing, utterly heartbreaking. The sentences gallop. They left me breathless. They left me so sad. There is a continuous sadness to the story, actually, almost unbearable, where each page is full of the pity of humanity. The story combines the very harsh with the very tender, the two of them balanced together exquisitely, and the two of them also in conflict with one another. Harsh and tender tough it out, sometimes in the same sentence.

The author never allows the sadness of events, t
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nothing like that will ever happen again, she's sure - not now; not here. How could it? This long reaching emptiness, grabbing right into you; nothing beautiful or unlikely could sneak up on you here. You'd see it coming, kicking up dust from miles away, and by the time it got here, it would already look spent, secondhand. Only the cruelty is astonishing, only the toxic boredom twisting imaginations just as the wind twists the cypress.
Cass Moriarty
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Loving, Faithful Animal, by Josephine Rowe, is a literary work of sparse, lyrical prose and evocative imagery. It is the story of the hard, mechanical facts of a family at war with itself. Jack has returned from the Vietnam War a broken man, his head 'a ghost trap'. He battles his internal demons by hitting out physically at his wife, Evelyn, and by periodically taking off, his long absences a feature of family life. The narrative is centred around one such desertion on New Year's Eve of 1990, ...more
Molly Harbage
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs-2017
5^n 😍
Michael Canoeist
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adolescence
Can you have 5-star writing with 1-star characters and plot? Aren't the characters and plot at least equally as important to the book as the prose style?

Yes, and that is why this is a 2-star review. Which makes me mad. Because this woman can really write!!

I read one of her stories, believe it was the title story of Tarcutta Wake, Stories, in whatever magazine it first appeared in. I had mixed reactions to the story, but I loved the narrative. It was impressionistic, but unlike so much that word
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c21st, australia, 16review
It takes a special kind of crazy-brave to write a novel about domestic violence that makes the reader feel sympathy for the perpetrators, and it takes a remarkable level of skill to create one that I am interested in reading. But as I predicted when I read Josephine Rowe’s short story collection Tarcutta Wake (see my review) this debut novel fulfils the promise of arresting characterisation. A loving, faithful animal is a multifaceted dissection of dysfunctional family life with unexpected momen ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a masterful exploration of the legacy of war and the affects of PTSD on the families of the soldiers who come home, giving respect to both sides and the havoc it wreaks upon them. From a rhetorical perspective, this is an incredible meditation on the uses of point of view to greater explore the mechanisms of a dysfunctional and grieving family. Genuinely one of the most arresting pieces of literature that I have ever read, full stop. I am absolutely in awe of Josephine Rowe's writin ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A slim novel packed with delicious prose, easy to lose yourself in and hard to leave behind.
Storm Remmenga
Certain parts of this book felt like beautiful poetry and other parts were quite boring.
Amra Pajalic
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ozauthor
A beautiful novel about a fractured family. Rowe dips between the points of view of Jack, a Vietnam Vet who has abandoned his family. The mother Ev who was left broken and broken-hearted from her marriage and abandonment. Eldest daughter Lani whose teenage rebellion hides her pain. Youngest daughter Ru who is traumatised by her broken family. Their Uncle Les who is always alone, and yet never lonely. A poetic and haunting novel that had me in its grip and even as I turned to the last page, hasn' ...more
A Loving, Faithful Animal is about the Vietnam war; how it impacted on one family and continues to have a direct impact on that family all these years later.

Brothers Jack and Les had different approaches to “winning” the birthday lottery and being conscripted to fight in Vietnam. Jack accepted, went off and came back a very different person. Les lopped off his index fingers so he would fail the medical. Jack has PTSD, Les has marginalised himself from society. Both are drifting rudderless.

Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elegant writing in this debut novel about an Australian family suffering the after-effects of the Vietnam war: a father with PTSD, his wife and two daughters. A two-day read. This author is one to watch.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, giveaways
The writing in this book is impressive, but clarity is sometimes lacking. Rowe’s use of the informal “you” in addressing Ruby made the story easy to jump into. However, coupled with chapters devoted to alternating family members, it created an additional layer to process. Each character’s section emphasized different aspects of the family’s shared story and all the sections came together well to make a whole. Readers who want the whole story spelled out will find problems with this format becaus ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite BBC series is Peaky Blinders. After 2 seasons, I lamented that it was a great series if only I could understand a word they were saying. Then I found subtitles and I confirmed that it really was a great series. This is the way I felt reading A Loving, Faithful Animal . I had a feeling it was really good filled with poetic prose if only I could understand Australian slang.

The title suggests we will embark on a journey with a devoted Golden Retriever. Alas, no. This is abou

Gayle Slagle
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved, loved, loved A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe. It is at times heartbreaking, at times uplifting, but always insightful and thought provoking. Rowe is a remarkable writer and I truly hope that her talent is recognized because she is simply too good to miss. A Loving, Faithful Animal tells the story of an Australian family and begins on New Year's Eve in 1990. To say the family is dysfunction would be an understatement, but Rowe presents each member of the family in such a way ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Loving Faithful Animal is a heartbreaking look at a family both reaching for and pushing away until they exhaust their capacity to return to each other. Ru is a self-contained child,anxious but tough, whose hope for a family devoid of dramatics is always disappointed. Evelyn, her mother, turned away from conventional family life to marry the dangerous and charming Jack, a Viet Nam veteran who alternates between abuse and abandonment. Lani, Ru’s oldest sister, is herself caught up in wildly sel ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel comprises six stories, starting in second person with Ruby, whom we come to realise is the younger daughter of the book’s central family. It then progresses through four stories told from different third person limited perspectives – Ruby’s mother Evelyn, her father Jack, her uncle and father’s brother Les or Tetch, and her sister Lani – before returning to Ruby’s second person voice to conclude. The story is one of a family broken by the father’s ongoing trauma (PTSD) following his Vi ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-recent
This book touched me in several ways. Her writing is so powerfully evocative that I relived emotions from my past, both as a child and an adult, that mirrored those of her characters. The particular experiences that engendered those emotions were not the same: she’s just that good, and what she is writing about is universal. Her imperfect and tormented characters are perfectly rendered so that you enter their individual worlds and you don’t think in terms of culpability or blame, you simply care ...more
Josephine Rowe is a beautiful, beautiful writer. I fell in love with her work when I read Tarcutta Wake a few years back, and have been looking forward to a novel ever since. 'A loving, faithful animal' replicates the vignettey feel of 'Tarcutta Wake', and I like that - not a great deal happens in this story, but we get slivers and flickers of each person's understanding of what this family is and why it has become this way. I have a deep and seemingly unshifting bias against rural and semi-rura ...more
Chris Waterford
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Take all the petals off a rose (She loves me, she loves me not) and you are left with individual beautiful petals that smell divine but there is no longer a coherent whole. So it is with this book. The writing is great, in patches, and some scenes stay in the mind but I often followed a narrative thread and came to a frayed ending. What was that about??
A family seeks to exist with the tragedies and trauma that engulf them. Jack, the father, is haunted by the Vietnam War, his trauma manifesting to the violence he visits on his wife. Evelyn takes refuge in the memories of her glorious youth and vents her frustrations on her daughters, Lani and Ruby. Lani wishes to escape but Ruby feels like she’s barely existing, her loyalties torn. Les, Jack’s brother, remains with the family, his loyalties torn and trying to make sense of Jack’s volatility.

Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia
Families are rough. This family has some issues. Loved the different perspectives. For fans of character driven novels.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Might’ve read better if I knew Aussie vernacular but this is another book that almost implies but never actually makes things plain. Some of the prose is great but I don’t see myself cracking another one of this author’s efforts.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a 3.5 read for me
Thoughts coming shortly
Jeffrey Bumiller
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I felt indifferent to this. It was just a little too oblique for me.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia, library, f
Beautifully written story about the impact of a Vietnam vets PTSD (though never referred to as such) on his family; wife, two daughters and his brother. Told in six sections, five from each point of view, first the younger daughter, the wife, the father, older daughter and then the brother pertaining to the time around when the father disappears for the last time. The last section from about 10 years or so later and touches on their ability to move on and the lingering emotions from those years.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Wanted to like it. Feel guilty about not liking it. Intensely written. Dense. Incomplete, impressionistic. Poetry-like. But not poetry? Multi-perspective, except they all seem the same to me. Damaged by war or family or booze or all of it. Been told many times before in both fiction & nonfiction. And better. But maybe I am just an old white guy in a bad mood. ...more
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Josephine Rowe is the author of three story collections and a novel, A Loving, Faithful Animal (UQP, 2016). She holds fellowships from the Wallace Stegner program at Stanford University and the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She currently lives in Melbourne.

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