There is an inherent accountability in the command to subdue the earth. . Torres’s language captures the wide-eyed wonder of kids all the while hinting at the dangers they may not even recognize as such. I grabbed hold of both of her cheeks and pulled her toward me for a kiss. Although the boys’ lives seems to be circumscribed by their isolation from the world and their complicity in the chaos of their parents’ fraught marriage, change inevitably comes as adolescence steals up on the narrator. They hunched and they skulked. Starting off, a specific question may be asked and that is, why do we read literature? But the device doesn’t impede our engagement with Mr. Torres’s spare, haunting story of a boy scrabbling toward wisdom about the adult world and his place in it. We the Animals Justin Torres Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 144 pp. Casey Clabough Even in some of the tenderer and more affectionate vignettes, the dormant violence spills over and explodes—as in one scene, when the narrator leans in to kiss Ma, still recovering from wounds Paps has inflicted on her: Those bruises looked so sensitive, so soft, so capable of hurt, and this thrill, this spark, surged from my gut, spread through my chest, this wicked tingle, down the length of my arms and into my hands. The “we,” so abundant in the first three-quarters of the novel, mutates into “I” and “they” as the narrator grows wary of his older brothers: They grew up wiry, long-torsoed, and lean. Though Torres’s book does not offer up a conventional happy ending, he keeps the novel’s conclusion open-ended. As the boys grow older, the narrator begins to extricate himself from the pack mentality of his siblings. Adoption is done mainly in the South and West and dates back to the Reconstruction era. Justin Torres’s debut novel, We The Animals (Houghton Mifflin, 2011), was the winner of the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. . Leia Darwish In one scene, Paps tracks down the boys after they’ve run away and deals them a particularly heavy beating. The scenes have the jumbled feel of homemade movies spliced together a little haphazardly, echoing the way memory works: moments of fear or excitement sting with bright clarity years later, while the long passages in between dissolve into nothingness. Procedures for selecting textbooks arose in the states in the late nineteenth century. “No way that’s my grave.”. Michaux Dempster In one striking scene he gives the boys a loving bath before suddenly turning his attention to his wife. The pain traveled sharp and fast to her eyes, pain opened up her pupils into big black disks. The family consists of a mother, father, and their three young sons. He is Puerto Rican; she is white. . At this point in the novel, the narrator’s otherness painfully begins to separate him from Manny and Joel and the rest of their tightly insular family. In another scene, the narrator, Manny, and Joel are smashing tomatoes and their mother’s tubes of lotion with a mallet in the kitchen, coating themselves with the gooey mess, when Ma walks in on them: She called us to her side and gently ran a finger across each of our cheeks, cutting through the grease and sludge . “Give your ol’ man a hand, why don’t ya?” We . Brian Henry One could not categorize Justin Torres’s slim first novel, We the Animals, a coming-of-age story set in upstate New York, as genre fiction—certainly not as an escape. This joyful, but ultimately haunting, scene echoes one in which Paps risks losing his job as a security guard for bringing the sons to his overnight shift. . This process is practiced in up to 25 states. . “Now, at the sight of our house, when it was safe to feel let down, we did.”. . . . Ma’s grave, I guess. The book is composed as a series of brief chapters moving roughly chronologically through a span of a little more than a half-dozen years. In this tale of adolescence, the themes and realities Torres explores apply alike to young adults and older adults. The narrator and his brothers were physically abused by their father, leading them to become more violent to one another and others, drinking alcohol and dropping out of school. There are six hands grabbing at all of the food at the dinner table, touching all of the objects in the house, shoving each other. Ben Cleary From the patchwork emerges a narrative of emotional maturing and sexual awakening that is in many ways familiar (no prizes for guessing the nature of the sexual awakening in question) but is freshened by the ethnicity of the characters and their background, and the blunt economy of Mr. Torres’s writing, lit up by sudden flashes of pained insight. “You ain’t white and you ain’t Puerto Rican.”) They don’t quite belong anywhere but with each other, and indeed, Torres rarely shows them interacting with characters outside the immediate family. When the book begins the narrator is nearly 7, and his two brothers, Manny and Joel, are just a couple of years older. Mr. Torres, whose short story “Reverting to a Wild State” was recently published in The New Yorker, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and now holds a prestigious Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. He dug until he could barely breathe, until he collapsed, wheezing, in the dirt . ISBN-13: 9780547576725. . (“Mutts,” Paps calls them. Manny explains to the narrator that Paps used his fists because he was “scared, that something serious could have happened to us.” But this rationale, of course, overlooks the obvious—something serious has already happened, is happening, in how Paps treats his children. “He’s digging a grave,” whispered Joel . Paps kept digging and digging, shovels full of dirt; dirt stuck to the sweat on his back and smudged across his cheeks and forehead . All rights reserved. The central motif of We The Animals is the depiction of children as animals. Torres’s novel witnesses the necessity of finding one’s own escape in the face of harsh realities. Maybe it’s your grave.”, “No way,” I said. We wanted more music on the radio; we wanted beats; we wanted rock.” Torres uses “we” as his primary pronoun for most of the book, demonstrating grammatically that the boys constitute a pack of wild animals—a survival mechanism for the siblings as they witness their parents’ volatile relationship and desperate circumstances. Emilia Phillips Must we forever stumble into the same holes as our parents? It is a story of three brothers who tear their way through childhood, smashing tomatoes onto each other, building kites from trash, dancing to their Paps’ booming voice over music, hiding out when their parents fight, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift, fighting fake battles as they get ready for the world – and so much more. In this way, in an isolated family where the parents can’t separate the tangled strands of love, pain, and rage, the children absorb and re-create the volatile and wildly oscillating energies of their parents. They scratched . On the narrator’s seventh birthday Ma is languishing in bed, her face bloated and bruised days after a severe beating. Not us. The boys travel in a pack, their ethnicity setting them apart from the white working-class children around them, and the disorder of their home life encouraging them to burrow further into their protective intimacy. A sense of lives doomed to struggle and disappointment pervades the writing without dragging it into lugubrious or melodramatic territory. Analysis Of We The Animals 821 Words | 4 Pages. Chapter 1 Summary: “We Wanted More” The novel opens with the words, “We wanted more” (1). Nobody’s ever escaping this.’ He raised his head and swept his arm out in front of him. Susan S. Williams, Review | We the Animals, by Justin Torres It is told from the point of view of the youngest son, whose name is not revealed until the ending of, We The Animals by Justin Torres is a blistering yet exquisite novel. In order for mankind to attain mastery over the animal kingdom, we must understand the animals. Why animals, you ask? Their cheeks hollowed, their lips barely covered their teeth and gums, as if the jaw and the skull inside wanted out. (One of Mr. Torres’s few literary tics is a slight overuse of the semicolon in the early chapters; perhaps it’s catching?). Telling incidents are described in simple language that occasionally rises to a keening lyricism: Paps teaching his wife and youngest boy to swim by abandoning them in deep water; Ma receding into catatonic despair when her husband disappears for a few days; a frenzied later attempt at escape when she piles the boys into the truck (the truck she hates for its lack of seatbelts) but drags them home again when they can think of no place to go.