“We were allowed to be what we were, frightened and vengeful — little animals, clawing at what we needed.”

wetheanimalsBooks on Tap read We the Animals by Justin Torres at Champion Brewery on May 3. We sat outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and wrapped up our conversation before the band started playing. Opinion was split on this atmospheric coming of age story, shaded by violence, unpredictability and dysfunctional love. It centers on three young brothers, narrated by the youngest. Their very young parents, one white, one Puerto Rican, have relocated from Brooklyn to upstate and no other family in town is like theirs. The episodic chapters are filled with scenes of great love right alongside great violence, culminating in the narrator ruminating on both his birth and chosen families.

I have to admit that the notes I took are no longer in my possession, so what follows is more of an impression of the discussion than reportage. Some admired the lush writing, others appreciated that writing but were glad the book wasn’t any longer and still others were confused and are waiting for the movie to see what really happened. We debated the stresses of poverty and racism on families and the pull of parental love. The author drew on his family history for inspiration. The mental health crisis portrayed made us wonder what services were available in a rural town in the 90s. Overall, we were glad we had been introduced to this author, even if we weren’t clear on what actually happened in the book.  

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