Sunday, December 7, 2008
The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
In Aryn Kyle's debut novel, The God of Animals, twelve-year old Alice Winston has more on her plate than the average preteen. When her sixteen-year old sister Nona elopes with a rodeo cowboy, she is left to endure the verbal abuse from her father, Joe. Frustrated that his family business is declining and that his prized rodeo daughter is no longer around, he has to find a way to make ends meet. Looking for a 'meal ticket' to riches, Joe decides to open his ranch to wealthy borders. As Alice is the only family member left by her father's side, she witnesses first hand how her father lies and cheats to keep his business alive.
Alice's mother Marilyn, has no idea of the mishaps going on because she has not left her bedroom since Alice was a baby. It is implied that Marilyn is suffering from postpartum depression, but 12 years sounds absurd. Alice is forced to grow up on her own, giving her character a voice more mature than an average 12-year old. Looking for the affection and adoration that her father gives his borders, Alice stumbles across her English teacher's phone number and decides to give him a call. An awkward friendship forms between the two, but Alice feels that it is much more. She begins to live a deceitful life, just as she witnessed her father doing.
When Joe's parents arrive for an unexpected visit, Alice does not know what to expect. They don't know of Nona's departure, the ailing health of her mother, or the stealing and lies that are the foundation on which the family stands. As all the secrets unravel one by one, both explicit and implied, the reader becomes destined to figure out the truth that lies beneath.
This coming of age novel is not appropriate to be incorporated in a Language Arts curriculum. Aryn Kyle addresses every theme that Young Adult Literature is common for, and then some (i.e animal cruelty, postpartum depression). The novel was uncomfortable and awkward at times, especially the bond that forms between Alice and her teacher. It is a lengthy novel that at times is drawn out, which would make it a better read on audio than in book format. Below is Aryn Kyle offering insight on her first novel that started off as short stories.