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Honestly, sometimes I think it’s the only recourse. Killing men in times like these.

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruel acts of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.

Here is the electrifying debut novel from Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Three Women, which was named to more than thirty best-of-the-year lists and hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece” (Esquire). Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society. With writing that scorches and mesmerizes, Taddeo illustrates one woman’s exhilarating transformation from prey into predator.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published June 8, 2021

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Lisa Taddeo

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Profile Image for Matt.
917 reviews28.2k followers
December 28, 2021
“I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig…”
- Lisa Taddeo, Animal

Animal is a heck of a literary experience, one of those rare novels that I actually seemed to feel. It’s not simply that Lisa Taddeo lands her emotional punches, though she certainly does. It’s also the way the sudden plot turns – as things go from worse to worser at warp speed – induce a sensation of whiplash, while some of the novel’s darkest scenes flirt with the grotesque in a stomach-churning manner.

For good and for bad – mostly for good – Animal delivers a forceful impact.

Typically, when I finish a book, I move straight onto the next one. After all, starting a new book is one of the greatest little pleasures of life. When I finished Animal, though, I took a walk, just to settle things in my mind. There is a force here that is hard to describe, and though I knew I liked what I’d read, I didn’t know how much of my reaction came from the sheer elemental power of Taddeo’s writing.

Having had more time to ponder, I’m a little more cognizant of Animal’s seams, especially in the frenzied, near-zany plotting. That said, this is not a book I’m soon going to forget. There is a lot of disposable fiction in the world; this is a title that defies that category, that lingers even after you’ve turned the last page.


The toughest thing about Animal is attempting to describe what it’s about, without giving it all away. The back-cover description is vague enough to support several interpretations, from character study to black comedy to revenge story. Frankly, even after I started, it took me awhile to figure out where things were going. This can be frustrating, but I never hesitated, buoyed by Taddeo’s engaging prose and her strong reputation (she wrote the excellent Three Women in 2019, a nonfiction exploration of female desire that demonstrated her skill at characterizations, as well as a deep reservoir of empathy).

Animal is narrated in the first-person by Joan, a woman in her late thirties who has led an interesting life. In the very first page, Joan informs us that a man has just killed himself in front of her. This sends her fleeing to California, where she tracks down a yoga instructor named Alice. As we move both forward and backwards (through frequent flashbacks), Taddeo presents a number of mysteries: Who is Alice? What is the unspeakable childhood event that caused Joan such trauma? Who is Joan addressing in the second person? What is the secret harbored by Joan’s aging – and wealthy – landlord?

Suffice to say, Taddeo answers these questions in a mostly satisfying way. Though I was not always surprised, I was consistently impressed with her execution. The ending is a bit of a humdinger: haunting and perplexing and seemingly designed to roil book clubs all over the country.


Animal is not going to be for everyone, just as Three Women was not for everyone. There is divisiveness baked into this novel’s DNA. In some ways, this is a taut, layered, above-average thriller about a woman’s reckoning with her past. Yet this is not a facile entertainment or standard genre fare. It is filled with unsexy sex, graphic violence, and a whole host of triggers: murder, suicide, sexual assault, infidelity, pregnancy, and domestic violence. Taddeo is unsparing in her descriptions. She is unafraid to cross lines.

There is a lot going on here, none of it light or airy. The grimness factor is high. Some of this is alleviated by the breakneck speed of the storytelling. Moreover, Taddeo unintentionally undercuts the seriousness of these proceedings by making Joan’s childhood so excessively traumatic that the trials of a Kristin Hannah protagonist seem like a day sunbathing at the beach in comparison.

(An example of this can be found beneath the spoiler tag. It is certainly a spoiler).

For me, Animal falls into that strange realm of fiction that is both super bleak and impossible to put down. It’d be wrong to say it’s fun to read, yet I read it every chance I got, unable to resist finding out what happened next.


Joan is the center of the storm, the focus of every page. Thankfully, the center holds. As characters go, she is irresistibly fascinating. Her past makes her a seemingly-sympathetic victim, but she can also be entirely unlikeable. She is by turns vulnerable and steely, honest and devious, generous and ruthless. Joan is complex and contradictory, as most people are complex and contradictory (though Joan’s poles are more extreme than most). There were times I was close to being finished with her, though I never fully stopped rooting for her.

Taddeo surrounds Joan with an interesting constellation of supporting cast members. Because this is told in the first-person, we are not allowed into the inner thoughts and feelings of anyone but Joan. Still, Taddeo’s portraits of Joan’s mother and father, of Alice, and of her past lovers, are quite effecting. There was one character in particular that was almost cartoonishly villainous – and it felt like Taddeo stacking the deck – but for the most part, everyone is given multiple dimensions.


Animal is an exceptionally well-written book. Her descriptions are marvelous, her eye for detail unerring. Early in the novel, Joan witnesses a car crash. The crash has nothing to do with anything, other than serving as some ambiguous metaphor. Nevertheless, it is portrayed so vividly that it actually distracted me. Even as I kept reading, I found myself thinking about the accident, one driver “covered in frosty dust” from the air bag, the other giving “the impression of burned toast.” A car seat is removed, the infant motionless, and Joan notes how she “could taste the metal and the tears of the father in the morning.” This is not just writing, it’s a form of painting.

Taddeo’s emotional incisiveness is also keen, and quietly devastating. In another one-off scene, Joan tells the story of having dinner at a friend’s house, a friend whose parents are extremely poor. They have pasta, except that the box is full of maggots. The friend’s mother removes the maggots, washes the pasta, and serves the meal. The friend is crying, and Joan muses how they “never played again” after that night. “It was early enough in the relationship,” Joan says, “That it didn’t feel, at the time, like a wound…” In a book full of loud moments of regret, this soft one struck hard.


As with Three Women, Animal is being marketed as a book with a message. Thankfully, Taddeo mostly avoids any didactic exposition or pedantic lecturing. She lets the story do the talking, and leaves it to the reader to tease out the meanings. That can be a challenge. Taddeo has created a fraught moral universe where there is very little that is clearly right, and very much that is wrong, though that wrongness has many shades and hues. This is one of those books that I immediately started foisting on my friends, encouraging them to read it, just so I had someone to argue with. I’m not guaranteeing a pleasant experience. Animal is simply too dark – bordering on the grand guignol – to make such promises. What I can promise is a novel that will elicit a response that’s not easy to shake.
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews569 followers
May 2, 2021
Ok... Wow. Now I know why this book is getting so much advanced praise.
ANIMAL is a VERY dark story about rage, power, control and abuse.

Protagonist Joan is such a complex character. Sometimes she's a victim. Sometimes she's the perpetrator. She seems to crave love and respect but knowingly looks in the wrong places and then her disappointment fuels her anger.
As the story unfolded I did sympathize with her but she still terrifies me!

Clearly Taddeo is a skilled writer and this book really hurt my heart and will stick with me for a long time.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the early copy.
Release date June 8th.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.1k followers
December 14, 2022
The central point of this book is that thirty-seven years of being a woman is enough to drive a person to kill.

And truer words were never spoken.

Yes, this is also wildly well written, causing me (a non-marker by nature) to highlight and annotate like it was my job, and yes, the theme of prey and predator as it comes to gender dynamics is excellent, and sure, these characters may not stay with me as long as what they were intended to portray will, but who cares about any of that.

Cool Girls like this book and it's feminist in the most f*cked up way on earth.

Another win for literary fiction about women who are horrible.

Bottom line: As long as I have something to read like this book, I'm pretty sure I'll live forever.


i don't really highlight or annotate when i read - it doesn't occur naturally to me - but my borrowed ebook of this is ravaged by blue-lined passages.

review to come / 4 stars

tbr review

this is on a lot of Cool Girls' best of the year lists, and that's all i need to know
Profile Image for Elle.
586 reviews1,313 followers
January 17, 2022
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed. Even with the tempered expectations I went into Animal with, I still felt like I was deprived of what could have been a much better book. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews here for this one, and that’s fine, we all have different opinions. But after giving it some thought there’s no way I can give a book that I have actively warned so many of my friends from reading a higher rating than this. To kick things off, let’s start with this quote:

“I am depraved. I hope you like me.”

These are the 8 words I’ve seen splashed all over the marketing. I love this quote. There’s so much revealed about a character who says this, and I was so intrigued by what more I would learn about her. The main character, Joan, is also the narrator and addresses the reader directly as she tells her story. It’s hard to discern who she’s speaking to in the beginning, but it’s later revealed shes talking to . This is the first of many problems I had with the book. I felt like the first half had a markedly different tone in who Joan was addressing. During that portion she was purely showing off for the ‘audience’, not speaking to anyone in particular, and I wish the author had been more consistent with her voice.

Throughout most of the book you’re not really supposed to like Joan. I believe by the end, though, the author’s intent was to have you sympathize with or at least understand her better. I’m typically a fan of unlikeable female characters, although I know they’re not usually super popular (duh). But what could have been an interesting character examination of the cycle of abuse and trauma instead became a shock-fest full of gratuitous depictions of sexual assault, child abuse, miscarriage and violence enacted with minimal tangible purpose.

To repurpose the now-famous Adam Serwer quote: offense is the point. You’re supposed to read portions of this book and be completely horrified. Many scenes are graphic and disturbing, with little left to the imagination. The characters are inconsiderate, so they speak offensively. You could go back and forth on specific lines of dialogue or debate the necessity of including certain descriptions or even entire scenes. For example, I don’t think there’s a reason for this author, or any white author in general, to use the n-word* in their works. My thesaurus is failing me—what’s the exact opposite of crucial? That’s what this word was to the plot of Animal.

But I get it. Some writers just like to include things because they can. They believe in an unencumbered right to say whatever they want, whenever they want, and anything less is censorship. I’m not really interesting in engaging in that debate. What I wanted from Animal was a smart commentary on female rage and aggression. I wanted something that would make me feel like I did after reading Gone Girl or watching Promising Young Woman. Instead I got 70% of ‘this is boring’ paired with 30% of ‘what the actual fuck?’

It just feels like such a waste. There were glimmers of greatness present in the text. Several quotes and ideas that hit where I think the author wanted them to, but just not enough to make it a worthwhile experience for me, unfortunately. After sitting with it for a minute, I can’t say much more than this was a typical edge-lord transgressive novel, but this time make it ✨woman✨.

I also didn’t like the attempt at a redemptive ending for the main character. It’s just not in line with the rest of the book and felt like a cop-out. If she is as “depraved” as she presents herself to be, then fucking own it. The very end itself was left somewhat open-ended, but by that point I didn’t care much what happened to any of the characters. They’re all held at arms length from the reader, which I guess probably fits with her as a narrator, but in effect left me feeling an echo of the same coldness that Joan maintained throughout the novel. And by that point I was very ready to be done with Animal.

I didn’t read Three Women; it’s not my type of book. I can’t compare the two, and all I know about it is a slew of reviews I read about a year ago. I think fans of Taddeo’s last work will be a little shell shocked coming out of this one. Still, I appreciate an author branching out from her previous genres and trying something new, so I will give her credit for that. But for me, this was a pretty big miss. I’d consider trying more from Taddeo down the road, but it would have to be a fairly big departure from whatever sub-genre this was.

*should be noted this was removed from the final run, but the ARC I read definitely had it less than a month out from the pub, which is still a red flag for me

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
234 reviews204 followers
August 31, 2022
“I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig.”

At thirty six, Joan knows more than most of the price of pleasure, the horror of being a woman at the mercy of a man. She knows men, too - their penchant for cruelty, the violence she has absorbed over decades that now threatens to burst from her own hands.

Reeling from the public suicide of a former lover, Joan abandons her apartment in New York and drives west for California, in search of the one person who might help her unravel the past.

I found this book to be very well written. It reads almost like a memoir and not a work of fiction. The storyline started out great but by halfway I was desperate to start skipping pages. It’s one of those books you keep reading just to see what happens. I did enjoy the complex main character with her shades of dark and light. However, as a woman, who has experienced no small measure of sad and tragic things, I simply could not accept that she had no remorse for any of her deliberate actions but rather felt justified. I understand feeling broken and angry and disappointed by those who you think, rightly or wrongly, hurt you. Going on to use that anger and disappointment as a weapon, against yourself and others, I don’t get that. Even understanding the motivation behind Joan’s behaviors & choices, I could not summon any sympathy for her.

Very mixed feelings with this one. It didn’t have any wow factor for me, no gripping pace. I feel it completely missed the mark with what it was trying to do.

Three stars for the quality of the writing.
I have read Taddeo before and will continue to read her.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,050 reviews577 followers
May 3, 2023
A violent death causes Joan, an unmarried thirty six year old woman, to leave New York City and head for Los Angeles. We’re not initially sure why she’s headed to L.A. in particular, but she’s clearly led a disturbed life and sees this latest incident as simply the final affront - she’s gone from this city. Her parents had died when she was only ten years old and she was subsequently brought up by an aunt, though in a way that lent her a good deal of freedom. When she had money she spent it and though her aunt had been generous and she’d inherited quite a chunk from her parents that’s largely been frittered away now. But she’s on a mission, that much is clear, we just don’t know what that mission is.

In California she rents a house in the Santa Monica Mountains owned by an odd fish called Leonard and gets friendly with an attractive guy who lives in a yurt close to the house. At a nearby café she gets a job making coffee and serving trendy health food. There’s not a huge cast of people here but we meet the few Joan comes into contact with and gradually learn the story of two men she had relationships with back in NYC, and how events eventually came to the boil.

Joan’s reflections on her relationships with men, her parents and on life in general include some really great lines. I found myself pausing to re-read some and even writing a few down to mull over later. She’s haphazardly promiscuous but clearly looking for something she’s yet to find. Some brief encounters seem almost like random acts of self-abuse. She seems to fall into relationships with men: some who she finds attractive, others seek her out and though she is to a degree repelled by these men she uses them to accrue some kind of profit. But it’s difficult to get inside her head - what is it she’s ultimately seeking, is it a figure to replace the father she lost so early in her life?

Her relationship with her parents was complex, we discover. She loved her father deeply, even if he was a rather stand-offish figure, and admired her mother. And the circumstances of their deaths are somewhat mysterious. Their early exit from her life obviously traumatised her but was it the loss itself or the manner of their passing that’s weighing most heavily on her? The narrative keeps you off balance, the whole picture is never visible. It’s not a complex story to follow but it’s difficult one to fathom.

As it draws to a close it seems that Joan has murder on her mind, but is she really contemplating this or is it just a random boast that she’s playing with? We now start to get some clarity on what actually happened in her early life: some of it is ugly but Joan clearly took these events and turned herself into a sponger, a spendthrift and a user. She became a stealer, of things and of people. This is a tale that is thoughtful, sometimes sad, often raw and unsparing and occasionally brutal. It’s a powerful and unrestrained account of how the events in someone’s life can have a profound effect their future. It’s one of the most enthralling accounts I’ve read in a very long time, I just couldn’t put it down.

I really enjoyed Lisa Taddeo’s book Three Women, a real life account of the sex lives of three American woman. That was a strong, honest piece of reporting – but this book impacted me more, I think. I really hope this book achieves the success I believe it deserves, it’s a mind-opening tour de force. My thanks to Avid Reader Press for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,194 reviews40.5k followers
July 15, 2021
Well, I can honestly say this harsh, stunning, stimulating work of the author is an intense punch to the gut and not for everyone’s cup of tea! It’s bold, it’s direct, it’s complex, it’s thought provoking and it’s truly disturbing!

It is about boiling anger restrained by the anti heroine for years of mental, physical abuse, neglect that drag her to form so much dysfunctional relationship patterns. At the end she makes so many worst choices which result with more self destructive, hurt and fury!

She slowly destroys her human self and let the animal takes the driver seat: because she’s sick of being a victim and she chooses to become hunter to let the despicable souls pay for what they’d done to the women.

It’s unique attempt empowered with feminism, a struggling and incredibly angry woman’s rising up and fighting back story!

I can give more than three stars after the effective opening freezes your blood: Joan : self destructive heroine, having hard time to adjust her new life in NY, trapped in a forbidden relationship with her sugar daddy/ married boss and as her relationship becomes more toxic, things get more out of control, resulting with the man’s suicide before her eyes.

She decides to make a clean slate by moving to L. A. : the real reason behind her moving decision is finding Alice she has known from her childhood and she’s fixated on her as her life is depending on reconnecting with her again.

But changing her location brings out buried ugly feelings from her and slowly she lets her inner animal walk out free and inner change turns her into vicious avenger who is targeting the men to compensate years of neglect and abuse she’s been suffering!

The idea is great but Joan was one of the most unlikable heroine who is not easily to resonate with. I tried so hard to empathize with her problems but she’s so hard to get invested.

Writing style was direct but the emotional depth and after effects of the mind blowing incidents were missing. The dark sarcastic tone of narration makes you question if the heroine told you the truth that she wasn’t a sociopath.

Lack of connection with the main character prevented me to get more invested in this story. But it was still fresh fiction start from Three Women’s author. I’m still looking forward to read more of her future works!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader/ Simon& Schuster for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Talkincloud.
161 reviews3,242 followers
April 19, 2022
To była literacka ekstaza. Delektowałem się tą lekturą. Jest kompozycyjnie doskonała — tak tworzyć, to sztuka! Uwielbiam!

W czasach takich jak te, zabijanie mężczyzn wydaje się najrozsądniejszym rozwiązaniem, uważa bohaterka powieści „Zwierzę” Lisy Taddeo. Kochanek strzela sobie w głowę na jej oczach, gdy ta siedzi w restauracji ze swoim innym kochankiem. Kto jej zabroni manipulować mężczyznami, skoro oni też przez całe jej życie starali się nią zawładnąć i kierować jej przeznaczeniem, już od najmłodszych lat. Bohaterka, Joan, nie daje na to zgody. Nie ma w tej historii miejsca na jakąkolwiek czułość. Jest za to dużo przestrzeni na coś, co określiłabym mianem „nieprzerwanego i niegasnącego wrzenia”.

„Zwierzę” jest niezwykłym literackim doświadczeniem. Postrzegam ją jako kompletne dzieło sztuki, wykraczające poza wszelkie normy i granice — jest absurdalna w swojej istocie, nierzeczywista, obrazoburcza, a przy tym po prostu genialna. Taddeo naszkicowała obraz, który działa na emocje, a ze strony na stronę coraz bardziej demoralizuje i deprawuje. Uderza jak pięścią w brzuch. W literaturze, w fikcji, możemy tworzyć światy i historie nierzeczywiste, surrealistyczne i z tym mamy tutaj do czynienia, choć nie oznacza to, że „Zwierzę” jest zupełnie odklejone od naszej codzienności. Nie. Taddeo bazowała na opowieściach kobiet, które poznała, gdy pisała swój reportaż „Trzy kobiety”.

Mamy tutaj historię niepowstrzymanej żądzy mordu. Agresji. A przy tym książkę o siostrzeństwie, kobiecości i sprzeciwie wobec mocy patriarchatu. Impakt, który wywiera „Zwierzę” jest ogromny i, może niektórzy pomyślą, nieco przesadzony. Aczkowiek ta siła, która wypływa ze słów narratorki przekazującej nam wspomnienia ze swojego życia jest nie do powstrzymania. Jest niezaprzeczalnie niepowtarzalna.

To nie będzie książka dla każdego. Nie polecam jej. Nie zachęcam do jej czytania. Ale dla mnie, prywatnie, jest to małe arcydzieło.

tw: gwałt, przemoc seksualna, morderstwo, krwawe sceny
Profile Image for Pam Gonçalves.
Author 9 books10.6k followers
February 28, 2022
1,5 ⭐️

Meu deus, o surto que foi esse livro. Tava amando o começo perturbador e cheio de metáforas… mas depois simplesmente desandou e não consegui suportar as coisas esquisitas que foram acontecendo. Sei la… não rolou.
Profile Image for leah.
282 reviews1,882 followers
August 16, 2022
Animal begins with a bang. in its opening pages, our 37-year old protagonist joan is having dinner with her new married lover, when her former married lover walks in and shoots himself in front of her. spurred on by this event, joan flees new york and embarks on a journey to los angeles, searching for a young woman named alice who can help to unravel the secrets of joan’s past.

all in all, Animal is a raw and unflinching story of female rage, a look at how simply living life as a woman can drive you to breaking point. but what makes the novel so compelling is that joan’s rage is compulsively subtle; it’s a simmering melting pot teetering on the edge of explosion. and even when, inevitably, it does explode, the explosion is equally as subdued, a blink of an eye to mark joan’s shift of always being the prey into her being the predator.

the novel’s main focus is an exploration of the relationship between women’s trauma and the culture of sexual violence, and joan as a character acts as a vehicle to portray how these experiences manifest into our own actions and behaviour.

Animal is one woman’s story, but it can also be any woman’s story, too. through its brutal examination of power dynamics, sexual politics, and the insidious nature of rape culture, it is easy to find relatability somewhere in this book, even if it’s just from the ‘smaller’ indignities of sexual violence that we’re taught to just brush off. joan is a manifestation of the animal that women are taught to repress throughout their lives, an allegorical portrayal of the anger, pain, and strength that comes along with womanhood, of being pushed just far enough that you need to sink your teeth into something.

in line with its themes, the book is dark and brutal, with some rather harrowing scenes that are not for the faint of heart. but Animal is an example of a literary thriller done right, particularly with its masterful pacing. the suspenseful twists are subtle, but compelling enough to keep you flipping the pages until the end. with the blistering atmospheric writing of Emma Cline and the raw characterisation of Ottessa Moshfegh, Animal is a female rage story that is simultaneously quiet and thrilling.
Profile Image for Emily B.
426 reviews419 followers
August 2, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book.

Up until 75% I felt very detached and indifferent about this book. I know the past of the protagonist was meant to be mysterious and revealed slowly but i don’t think it had the intended affect on me as i didn’t care too much and felt disorientated if anything. After 75% thing finally start to make sense and I started to enjoy it. I also started to appreciate the plot as a whole.

I usually love depraved, emotional, traumatised protagonists but I didn’t love this one. There are also some heavy subject matters and gruesome scenes.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,000 reviews35.9k followers
August 2, 2021
Audiobook…narrated by Emma Robert’s
…10 hours and 48 minutes

Lisa Taddeo’s, novel, “Three Women”….didn’t impress me. “Animal” does.

It’s all about Joan. Joan. Joan. Joan! “Depraved”….JOAN!
….. a little narcissistic, perhaps…..[Joan is 36 yrs old. and single]

….Joan had a horrific childhood: parents died when she was 10 years of [and we learn of a horrific childhood event later in the novel]….

It’s Filled with rage….but the rage unravels through distorted behaviors.
we read about….
….men, sex, men, sex, more men, more sex, more men…more sex….

….promiscuous Joan was often indiscriminately selective….
She liked older men. “She saw old men the way they saw themselves”.

….death, suicide, violence,
….sexual trauma
….sexual abuse
MORE carnal abuse, power & control, sexual ravishment, assault, rape, rage, seduction, domination,
….more sex, power, yoga, pizza, pot, drinking, laughs, anger, the wife, games, awareness, lack of awareness, ignorance, hot dogs, parents, married men, sunsets, cooking, women, passing cars, sour cream, women, Alice, betrayal, flea markets, ninja turtles, potato chips, burgers, money, car shows, parents, pools, yurts, more pent-up rage, bathing suits, mountains, trees, adult recreation centers, chlorine, family, friends, work, politics, kids separated from their mom’s, Leonard, Big Sky, Alice….Alice….Alice….

Having left New York, Joan was new to Topanga Canyon, in Los Angeles. (“The best air” is in the Canyon of Los Angeles”) > I laughed at the little truthful remark.

Listening to this book had a storytelling feeling….
Surely I was aware that Joan was troubled, and sexually-obsessed….
It’s haunting and disturbing, but it was also suspenseful and thrilling — Lisa Taddeo’s writing took me into full custody….I admit being putty-in-her-hands.
As a fiction writer, Lisa’s sentences felt more authentic - her adventures were more insightful (to me) - than her non-fiction book, “Three Women”.

Lots of sentences I listened to, I found I wanted to replay and listen again.

“Men were always putting their coats around her shoulders. They marked their territory that way”.
“It’s better to freeze to death”.

“When men tell you they’re pieces of shit, when they are scumbags, they do it because they know you are subconsciously hooked”.
It hooks you more”.

“She never felt so strongly about any other man before Big Sky — even after just one meeting”.
The second time Lisa met Big Sky, he was wearing his cargo pants and his fishing vest… a look that she came to admire.
….She was instantly in love.
….They had a couple of beers and their second meeting together.
….She was proud of herself and away she had never been ever then in that moment. She felt confident sitting next to Big Sky.
….Several times Lisa wanted to pay for Big Sky’s beer…
But he said, “no that’s not how it works”.
….He smoked good pot. She found it sexy.
….He knew the history of places. He knew the history of bars.
….He laughed when she said something funny.
….It was like the best first date she ever. ( and he was married).
….She should’ve played it cool. She would’ve given anything to go back and play it cool.
….He complemented her hair and her intelligence.
….Their thighs were touching… Her jeans against his loose khakis.
….She could feel the heat of him through their material. She had never wanted anybody more.
….He had never wanted somebody more, either.He had a wife and he needed to get out of there.
….He held a cab. One flew past.
….A second cab came, and Big Sky helped her in.
….His self centeredness look sexy.
….”May I kiss you on the mouth, he said?”
The cab drivers’ patience was wearing thin, waiting, but nobody else mattered.
….Yes!….Big Sky could kiss Joan…
….He came forward. It lasted no more than three seconds but she was on fire.
…..”It was more sex… that kiss”
….”Maybe it wasn’t Love”……but she didn’t know what to call it.:

This is not a book for everyone….but I found Joan to be a fascinating-a complex-interesting-as-hell-woman; the story compelling, and an ending that felt complete — even as Joan herself was not (as none of us are).

As for Emma Robert’s voice narration… SHE WAS EXCELLENT!
Overall….I’d call this book brutal and brilliant.;

Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,964 reviews668 followers
July 3, 2021
Holy Moly!
This is such a strange book to rate and review. Joan isn't your typical protagonist. I don't even know if I like her... Joan is insecure, sex-obsessed, hungry for love and acceptance. She's a victim and she's not. This is dark and I feel her rage.

I have a whirlwind experience listening to this book. I couldn't stop listening to this wonderful narration by Emma Roberts, but when I did, I don't feel like picking up where I left off. Maybe I was unsure if I can handle more disturbing scenes that will be thrown at me. In the end, I didn't hate it nor love it. So it's 3⭐ for me.

This isn't a book for everyone; crass language and explicit sexual content.
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,491 reviews595 followers
June 24, 2021
Ugh. I have been giving myself pep talks just to keep picking this up.

I am giving up and moving on to (what I hope) will be a more enjoyable book.
I hate the writing style, hate the MC, and just cannot get into it at all.
It's a shame too, because I adore unstable (and totally bananas) characters normally.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for my DRC.
Profile Image for Trudie.
525 reviews558 followers
June 25, 2021
Damaged and perplexing female narrators seem to be all the rage in literature at the moment. I am thinking particularly of the unnamed narrator from Otessa Moshfeghs My Year of Rest and Relaxation, or Edi and her disastrous love life from Raven Leilani's recent book Luster. Rage is the operative word here when we consider Lisa Taddeo's debut novel Animal

Restrained is not an adjective to be applied to this story, rather this is a plaintive howl to the messy landscape of male-female relationships in the post-Harvey Weinstein world. In this way, it could be likened to the recent film Promising Young Woman, a blackly comic revenge tale. This novel promised something equally as satisfying and unwholesome, an honest look at the complexities of desire and yet it manages to tangle itself in a knot of ridiculousness and trip over itself in a race to boldly state its own gritty truths. 

Certainly, the story starts strongly, with a compelling voice of Joan. She calls herself depraved and while this proves to be a stretch, likewise she is not a woman easily admired. To say she has had misfortune in her life is an understatement. Joan dates a married man, who within the opening scene of the novel shoots himself in front of her while she is out for dinner with the true love of her life, a man known as "Big Sky" - he is from Montana, married, the love is not reciprocated. It's a ballsy start to a novel. 

Joan picks up her life and moves to a canyon in LA, where she proceeds to stalk and befriend( for reasons that are later made clear) an impossibly beautiful yoga instructor. They pal around going to HIV yoga and making seared tuna fish and arugula salads. 

Joan reflects on her checkered dating history and has sex with various men some of whom live in yurts. 

We also get introduced to Lenny, an elderly man living in the canyon who has both Parkinsons and Alzheimers and thinks Joan is his wife. Another unpleasant backstory is slowly unfurled with a vaguely Eyes Wide Shut scenario. It all very exhausting. 

The plot when written out so prosaically does not sound convincing. But it is in the skewering of something essential about woman and relationships where this novel comes into its own. Taddeo spent several years researching the sex lives of three women for her non-fiction bestseller Three Woman and it seems likely that some of the realistic details in Animal are a direct bubbling over her time spent talking to women about desire. Some of these characters, particularly the men will be frighteningly familiar and even though Joan is supposedly "depraved" her predicaments do make her sympathetic. Themes of adultery, toxic relationships, abuse, suicide, childhood trauma, all play a central role in the book. 
However, the tale gets too long in the telling, curiosity wanes as things become both bloodier and less interesting. The end when it comes is a hot mess, one that readers will either embrace for its daring boldness or like me, think ruined what could have been an otherwise excellent novel.
Profile Image for Anna.
102 reviews3,790 followers
October 20, 2021
dnf 355/446

Bardzo starałam się przejrzeć tę książkę na wylot, dostrzec to, co kryje się za bólem, agresją i wszystkimi obrzydliwościami tej książki. Nie raz, nie dwa miałam do czynienia z utworami epatującymi seksem i brzydotą; zwykle okazywało się, że za tą kurtyną coś jest, coś trudnego, niekiedy niemal nieopisywalnego, ale jednak ważnego. Zwierzę jest wydmuszką, w której wszystko trzeba brać na wiarę. Nic z niczego niestety nie wynika, choć Taddeo z całych sił, przez całe 350 stron, które przeczytałam, stara się pokazać drogę przebytą przez bohaterkę, a na dodatek zrobić to tak, by w głowie czytelnika pojawiła się myśl "no tak, przecież to jasne i zrozumiałe, wiem teraz dlaczego jest taka". Nie do końca. Wcale nie jest jasne - bo całość jest gigantem na nogach z patyków (o glinie nie może być tu mowy). Nie jestem pewna, czy ta książka jest w jakimkolwiek aspekcie szkodliwa. Raczej obrzydza to, co obrzydliwe, niczego nie pochwala, ale też niczego nie gani. Jeśli już coś robi to podaje na tacy najprostsze wnioski. Takie, do których bohaterka dochodzi grubo za połową, kiedy czytelnik odkrył to już na samym początku. Nie wiem jak to było z Trzema kobietami, ale na razie Taddeo jest pisarką, która bardzo chce zrobić coś wielkiego i naturalistycznego, a przez to współczesnego, ale nie ma jeszcze ku temu wrażliwości/umiejętności (jak kto woli). Pisanie reportaży oraz opowiadań, a zajęcie się powieścią to jednak dwie różne rzeczy.
June 10, 2021
Nope. Just no.

I’ll write a review when I’m not raging over the last few scenes of this book. I’m sorry. What the fuck was that.

Review (kind of):

So it’s been no secret that this book was not working for me. This is true trauma porn to its core. Dehumanizing actual tragedies in people’s lives and writing them with emotion lacking detail is not something that I would ever enjoy. I’m not a trigger warning slinging kinda gal, but for anyone who has suffered pregnancy loss or anything related, message me prior to reading this because there is a wholly insensitive scene(s) that I can speak directly to. Between the “scene” and one specific quote, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to stomach a book by this author again.
Profile Image for Pat.
2,310 reviews402 followers
August 15, 2021
I think I read enough of this (between a third and half) to give it a rating. But I had to DNF, I was just bored senseless with it. None of it made any sense.

This was a library ebook loan which I had been looking forward to. Maybe I missed the best parts but I think I’ll get over it!
Profile Image for Max.
288 reviews50 followers
May 16, 2021
From what I've heard, this has been a pretty controversial one on Goodreads. Animal is difficult to sort into a single genre or sum up in a single sentence because it's completely unpredictable. The writing jumps around a lot, but I couldn't help think that it perfectly suited the story.

The synopsis immediately reminded me of the recently released Promising Young Woman movie with Carey Mulligan, but Animal proved to be a much darker and disturbing story. Joan's narration is consistently interesting throughout the entire book because you never really know how to feel about her. One page you'll relate to her and the next you'll be infuriated.

This book is not for the faint of heart and will really appeal to a certain group of readers. Animal has a very disturbing depiction of trauma and vengeance, and you'll need to read it at a slower pace to tackle the beast of a novel it is.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews989 followers
May 9, 2021
I'm honestly not sure what to say about this one. The writing is beautiful and clever in its descriptive sense and formation of external characters, Lisa Taddeo is undoubtedly talented in that arena.

That aside though I found this novel disturbing and likely not in the way the author intended..I can see what she was attempting here but for me personally it was too convoluted and over written in so many places. Main protagonist Joan is so totally unlikable, the way she behaves, the way she thinks, you are invited to understand that this is because of a dark event in her past, and it is, yet somehow as horrific as that final reveal was, it didn't really hit home. I was just left feeling vaguely uncomfortable and half wishing I'd never read it.

Its like if you took the worst aspects of every woman and kind of melded them into a hot pot of events and experiences that would be Joan who never really solidifies as a possible real human being in her own right. Clever as this was in some ways, in others it felt like it was just there for shock value rather than being a social commentary on anything.

There are shocking and distasteful acts in this book, not something that tends to bother me but here it was over reaching. And frankly the alzheimer's layer of the plot I found to be genuinely offensive and trust me I dont offend easily. I'm not even a reader who gets wound up about fictional dead animals but I guess we all have our tipping point.

I do see, with a birds eye view, why Animal has a lot of rave reviews and will probably do very well but when I zoom in on it I'm pretty sure I just didn't "get" it.

Sadly I don't really feel I can recommend this one.

Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
June 14, 2022
De Animal e Louco Todos temos um Pouco

Todos temos um lado animal. Se o enjaularmos ou ignorarmos, ele ruge enraivecido tornando-se perigosamente destrutivo!

É possível superá-lo?

Estou em crer que sim! Não na totalidade, mas uma parte significativa…

Porém, não sem antes o libertar: extravasá-lo até que naturalmente se esgote, ou, melhor ainda, aniquilá-lo (leia-se minimizá-lo😜) sob um olhar auto-critico porque ninguém suporta sentir asco de si mesmo por tempo indeterminado. Afinal, o lado racional também está lá (a Mulher é um Animal Racional, certo?!) e é suposto servir para alguma coisa…

Em Animal, Liza Taddeo confronta-nos com o animal interior — urge reconhecê-lo se almejamos suprimi-lo (leia-se minimizá-lo😜)
Afinal, cada um ao seu jeito, de Animal e Louco, todos temos um pouco…😉😜🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for Jackson.
1 review
February 18, 2021
Re: The 1 star review by professional reader "Merricat." I left this comment on her review and she deleted it, which only underscores the validity of my comment

This is an intellectually dishonest review. The tragedies “Merricat” cherrypicks without context for her review happen in life (all too frequently). It is, in fact, the very reason that they are triggering. Trauma and horror are used in art and fiction to create empathy and understanding for audiences with limited experience of the world around them. That is one of the ways we prevent tragedy from recurring: educating people about how it feels. There is a difference between disliking a book and misrepresenting the context of its content. Is this reviewer opining that writing about trauma and horrific events should be avoided? Or just specific events that are specifically triggering? Because, everything everywhere is specifically triggering to someone somewhere. Suggesting fiction isn’t worth of being published because one doesn’t like it is a really weird and obtuse position to take as a “professional” reader. And quite nearly verging on censorship.
Profile Image for Megan Bell.
217 reviews22 followers
November 19, 2020
In 2019, I sat down to read Lisa Taddeo’s debut nonfiction account of the desire and sexual lives of three women and read it all in one compulsive and breathless sitting. Three Women’s fans around the world will want to take that seat again, because Animal, Taddeo’s new and debut novel, will blow them off their feet.

Animal opens with Joan, its anti-heroine and a jaded survivor, witnessing a shocking and public act of violence by a former lover. This act propels Joan across the country as she tracks down Alice, a woman she’s never met and the last person alive who can shed light on Joan’s dark past. It’s this trauma that Animal is inexorably zeroing in on—a gendered, generational trauma that is not only Joan’s history and her inheritance, but ours as well. Animal distills the insidious and permeating violence of rape culture into one killer dose of strong medicine that will have you redefining what it means to be a predator, or prey.
Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
822 reviews107 followers
April 23, 2021
Animal covers a lot of terrible things with a pretty unredeemable main character, but I was kind of riveted by it.

This is absolutely not going to be a book for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. I can absolutely say that it, and Joan, will stick with me for awhile.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,366 reviews540 followers
March 8, 2021
We were all over each other. We kissed like animals. We knocked into my stupid liquor shelf and it wobbled and in particular I noticed the Rémy Martin on the shelf. It had belonged to my parents and I never touched it or let anyone else touch it. But in the near future, I would let him drink it. Afterward, we were practicing a few yoga positions together, downward dog into crow jumping back into chaturanga, when his cell phone rang. His breathing was heavy but he clipped it somehow: Hey, honey. Yeah, no, don’t sweat it. I’m gonna bring home a pizza. Yeah, coming right now. Okay, love you. He smiled as though nothing had happened. It wasn’t that he was cruel but that he was tipsy and the moment didn’t call for being strange or for acknowledgment. I followed his lead. We laughed some more about some things and he said, Well. And I said, Bye. And he said, Easy, girl. I’m going.

When I read Lisa Taddeo’s nonfiction blockbuster Three Women — marketed as a journalistic inquiry into the nature of women’s desire — my only complaint was that the narratives featured were too similar: these were essentially three women who all had relationships with married men, and each of them had childhood experiences that may have set them up to not expect more for themselves. Taddeo’s first novel, Animal, explosively mines even deeper into this line of inquiry: When we first meet Joan, she is recalling being out for dinner with a married lover when her former married lover entered the restaurant, and while this initially seems like the story of a cold-hearted gold digger who has her past catch up with her, as Joan flees her life in NYC for a hot and dusty rental house in the Topanga Canyon adjacent to LA, Taddeo artfully reveals the abuses that Joan has suffered at the hands of these and other lovers and the childhood losses that set her up to not expect much more from men or life in general. With explicit sex scenes, heartbreak, loneliness, and crushing loss, this was an uncomfortable read, but Taddeo’s writing is consistently thoughtful and provoking; Animal is a perfect followup to Three Women, the novel form freeing Taddeo up to make more explicit connections and commentary. I loved this. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.)

If someone asked me to describe myself in a single word, depraved is the one I would use. The depravation has been useful to me. Useful to what end, I couldn’t say. But I have survived the worst. Survivor is the second word I’d use . A dark death thing happened to me when I was a child. I will tell you all about it, but first I want to tell what followed the evening that changed the course of my life. I’ll do it this way so that you may withhold your sympathy. Or maybe you won’t have any sympathy at all. That’s fine with me. What’s more important is dispelling several misconceptions — about women, mostly. I don’t want you to continue the cycle of hate. I’ve been called a whore. I’ve been judged not only by the things I’ve done unto others but, cruelly, by the things that have happened to me. I envied the people who judged me. Those who lived their lives in a neat, predictable manner. The right college, the right house, the right time to move to a bigger one. The prescribed number of children, which sometimes is two and other times is three. I would bet that most of those people had not been through one percent of what I had. But what made me lose my mind was when those people called me a sociopath. Some even said it like it was a positive. I am someone who believes she knows which people should be dead and which should be alive. I am a lot of things. But I am not a sociopath.

At first, Joan certainly does seem like a sociopath, but it is a credit to Taddeo’s craft that information about the past and present are doled out so carefully that understanding and empathy slowly evolve; I needed to push through some distasteful events to come to learn what made this woman the way she is — and then I wanted to save her from herself. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, but I will note that this is a book about female rage and how women suffer under the patriarchy and the male gaze; I do wonder how a male reader would react to this.

After we returned to Italy, I worked as a waitress at this café on La Dogana beach in Maremma. Every day this bald man with one of those cartoon guts came in. Every day he ordered the linguine con vongole. They made it the best there. And every day this man, Carlo, would ask for extra parsley, but he wanted me to sprinkle it on top right there in front of him. Some days he was my only lunch table. He didn’t act untoward with me, unless you can count him wanting the parsley sprinkled tableside, and the way he would watch my hands. I used to apply clear polish every other day because I was conscious of Carlo watching my fingers. Joan, do you understand? There are rapes, and then there are the rapes we allow to happen, the ones we shower and get ready for. But that doesn’t mean the man does nothing.

Much of Joan’s story is about “the rapes we shower and get ready for”, and while her history makes her feel less than human, it’s the men in this novel who act like animals; no more in control of themselves than blood-crazed coyotes. I realise that I have quoted huge chunks in this review in order to give a feel for the writing but it still feels inadequate to the task; Animal adds up to so much more than the sum of these parts and I am enlarged by having read it.
Profile Image for Mel.
229 reviews37 followers
June 13, 2021
It pains me to say this, but Animal unequivocally did not work for me. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, since I wound up DNFing Three Women as well. Lisa Taddeo is undoubtedly talented, her prose traffics in big ideas parred down to snappy one liners or short paragraphs that read like mini rage-fuelled manifestos. I found myself highlighting a lot of quotes to circle back to, and there is plenty of buzzy capital C content for Emma Roberts and other celebrities with book clubs looking for the latest in edgy and hip to latch onto.

So why the two ⭐️ review? Because despite being such a loud, in your face, self-identified angry novel, there’s very little substance or purpose to any of it. Gratuitous violence against women or aggressive trauma porn doesn’t get a free pass just because it’s written by a woman. The piling on of graphic depictions of murder, suicide and even a murder-suicide, don’t ultimately serve any discernible purpose other than to shock, and I suppose underscore how damaged and raw our narrator Joan, is. But let me assure you, there is never any doubt that Joan is ill, the book shouts from the rooftops early and often how depraved and morally debased she is. The central ideas and themes Animal seeks to unpack aren’t in any way furthered by the violent content.

The stylistic choice to narrate the novel as a tell-all or cautionary tale to an unnamed daughter is also an odd choice, that I never fully bought. Half the time Joan is boasting about how fuckable and unbothered she is, and the rest of the time it’s just pain, pain and more pain. Then, to cap it all off, an attempt at redemption at the end? Yeah, talk about tonal whiplash.

To end on a lighter note, I am happy to see that this book worked for so many women, and I hope in future more stories about difficult, even hateful women continue to be made and marketed as mainstream. If one positive come from the spectacle that is Animal in the long run, I hope that publishers acknowledge that female rage and critiques of rape culture told through the lens of messy, complicated characters is much more than just trendy fodder, but a critical imperative to dismantling patriarchal oppressive systems in the literary world and beyond.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
December 6, 2021
Animal — The Story behind the story

“Animal became, for me, a way to show the way that cuts—both small and large ones—deepen and manifest and metastasize over time to become canal-depth stripes. And these stripes are the markings of an animal, of a woman, in this case, turning into the very beast she has been whipped and/or caged into being.”

“With Animal I wanted to show the guts. I wanted to show the way the past can handicap you. Of all the stories I heard for Three Women, there were so many I couldn’t publish because the subjects had decided against wanting their stories made public, but there were also so many sadder stories that were happening to the people right next to me. I absorbed their stories, I lived with them and between them, and I have wanted to tell of the roads to hell that some of us take, that we don’t entirely choose.”

“I believe we each have a Joan in us. That we would like to deny the bitterness we carry around, all the rage at all of the cold speculums we’ve endured at the hands of men, and the cold judgments of our fellow women. But sometimes denying that very bitterness is what makes it overflow up out of our Thinx and our pores and makes us rage against each other, and, brutally, ourselves. Mostly, I wanted to show how we are quickest to condemn those who stand before the same cliffs we do, those who perhaps jumped when we wished we had, or those who, like us, jumped when we wished we hadn’t.”

“This book is to say, This is how bad it can get. We are the sum of our years, and some of us have had it base and hard and deplorable. Some of us have lost as much (and more) than Joan. These pages are for those people, may they know that others have been there, too; but these pages are also for the people who say they can’t understand why someone would be driven to certain ends by their lives. We are all animals, we are all just wanting to be loved and fed, and I hope this book makes you feel less lonely. I hope it entertains you, I hope that if it makes you feel dirty, it’s in a way that also makes you feel seen.”

All these quotes are part of an interview where Liza Taddeo talks about the real motivation behind Animal
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