Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We the Animals by Justin Torres

I didn't like this book at all.  I've grown tired of stories about "Latino" families in which abuse is considered normal and a sign of passion or love.  I don't like the way this seems to be presented as part of our culture.  Something we tolerate as a result of all of our "intense" feelings.  When I read things like this, I get angry thinking that there are white people reading this book and assuming that we all act this way.  Not fair, I know, but still.  Someday, I'd like to read a story about a Latino family that didn't involve domestic abuse.

This is intended to be some kind of coming of age story, about a rather dysfunctional family.  The parents were too young when their three sons were born.  The children seem to have no discipline at all, I guess because the parents work all the time.  The author writes proudly of the way the boys destroy everything.  The mother is helpless to do anything, she never seems to know what's going on because the night shift she works has her confused all the time.  And she gets beaten by her husband fairly often, and sometimes she thinks of leaving, but never goes through with it.  When they're not fighting, they're fucking, and sometimes right in front of the children.  Also, she seems to be having a lesbian affair with a co-worker, which seems random, until you get to the very end of the book.

The book is written like a lot of popular modern fiction these days, a series of short stories, just a few pages describing some big, tragic incident, just enough information to shock and horrify.  Then the author moves on to another story.  It's a little too much like poetry for me to enjoy.  When I read a book, I want to sink into it, and that doesn't happen with this book.  It's very sparse, vague, almost, never really letting the reader know what's happening.  The ending is intended to be especially shocking and unexpected.  Unfortunately, I'd read a few reviews that had hinted at what was to happen, so I wasn't as shocked as I might have been had I not read the reviews.  It didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story, but then again, nothing in the story really flowed or fit all that well.

This just wasn't my sort of book.  On the plus side, it's very short, so I didn't feel like I wasted all that much time reading it.

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