Sunday, September 30, 2007
The God of Animals - Aryn Kyle
Alice Winston is twelve. She has a reclusive mother who rarely emerges from her bedroom, a beautiful, high-spirited sister, Nona, who ran away with a rodeo rider, and a father overwhelmed by money problems and preoccupied with his horses. Absorbed by their own dreams and disappointments, they don't really see Alice standing on the periphery in isolation. Alice has no friends. When her shop partner, Polly Cain, drowns, Alice posthumously invents a friendship with the dead girl and forms an unsettling relationship with her English teacher.
To save their ranch, Joe Winston, begins to board horses and sells Nona's prize winning Cap to a girl he hopes can be taught to win. As the summer heat seres Desert Valley, the family's lives become enmeshed with the wealthy women who come to groom their animals and drink cocktails from their thermoses. Alice begins to understand and resent the security that money can provide. It's a summer of lies and promises, cruelty and generosity.
COMMENT: Aryn Kyle adeptly captures the voice of a twelve-year old girl. Sometimes Alice speaks with a wry humour ("I was the only person present who couldn't sue my father if the mare crushed me into pieces") and sometimes with heartbreaking sadness ( "I kept my eyes closed, letting myself pretend that she was someone, anyone, who loved me.") The plot development is strong and through Alice's eyes, the characters are well drawn.