FICTION REVIEW: "We the Animals"

  • Article by: MEGANNE FABREGA
  • Updated: September 16, 2011 - 7:55 AM

A spare and strong debut about living on the fringe of society.

Justin Torres

Photo: Gregory Cowley,

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The three young boys in Justin Torres' debut novel, "We the Animals," might as well be in your own living room or sitting next to you by the lake, running through your quiet reading life with their dirty shoes, their feral yelling, their boyness emanating from them like a blast of hot steam.

Their parents, a young couple with little money and even less patience, struggle to raise them in a small town where their interracial marriage keeps them and their children on the outside of society. They struggle to establish their own rules and mores, and each member of their little tribe dreams of escape but can't imagine a life without the others.

Torres' writing is spare and strong, like his protagonists, and with "We the Animals" he chooses his fictional anecdotes with care.

In one scene the continuous ring of a phone pleads with the boys' mother as if it were a human voice. In another scene each boy, and their mother, takes a turn lying down in a muddy grave during a rainstorm, and each emerges having had his own distinct emotional experience.

"We the Animals" may take a short time to read, but its rough beauty will linger on long after you turn the last page.

  • WE THE ANIMALS

    By: Justin Torres.

    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 128 pages, $18.

    Review: "We the Animals" is a spare and strong debut by Wallace Stegner Fellow Justin Torres.

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