The God of Animals – Aryn Kyle
From the book jacket –
When her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, Alice Winston is left to bear the brunt of her family’s troubles — a depressed, bedridden mother; a reticent, overworked father; and a run-down horse ranch. As the hottest summer in fifteen years unfolds and bills pile up, Alice is torn between dreams of escaping the loneliness of her duty-filled life and a longing to help her father mend their family and the ranch.
To make ends meet, the Winstons board the pampered horses of rich neighbors, and for the first time Alice confronts the power and security that class and wealth provide. As her family and their well-being become intertwined with the lives of their clients, Alice is drawn into an adult world of secrets and hard truths, and soon discovers that people — including herself — can be cruel, can lie and cheat, and every once in a while, can do something heartbreaking and selfless. Ultimately, Alice and her family must weather a devastating betrayal and a shocking, violent series of events that will test their love and prove the power of forgiveness.
Nothing about the book description itself jumped out at me. I’m not sure what exactly led me to pick up The God of Animals – I’m assuming it was a review I read or something – but I am so thankful that I did because I can’t stop thinking about this book. It’s not the type of book I would say that I “love” but the best way I can describe it is haunting. The characters will not soon leave my mind and I know I’ll be thinking about it for quite some time.
If you are an animal lover, especially a horse lover, this is not the easiest book to read. I know absolutely nothing about horse training, so I can only guess that Kyle wrote these parts of the book accurately, but I need to throw out a warning that there is a LOT of very detailed scenes depicting abuse of the horses… it was very, very hard to read and I was near tears during some of the passages. This one thing, however, is probably the only aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy, and truthfully I think the details added helped the believability of the book… but I did not like to read about these details in particular, it was just really hard for me.
The writing in this novel is simply beautiful. Every word, every sentence, was obviously chosen so carefully to make every single aspect of the book a crucial element of the story. Now, I am a person that can never love a book based on beautiful writing alone (if the story/characters don’t do it for me, the writing can never save the book), so I also have to make perfectly clear that the story also captivated me. It was not a page-turner type of story, exactly, but one that made you slowly fall into rhythm with the characters and their lives, a story that kept you turning pages because you started to care and had to find out how things turned out. At least, that ‘s the way the book felt for me – like I started developing relationships with these people (especially Alice) and I couldn’t turn away from them without knowing how their lives turned out. The God of Animals is most definitely a sad book overall – there are a lot of observations about class, poverty, mental illness, and abuse (of animals, not of people) – but it ends with a note of hope and for me, the ending was exactly what I needed. It completely satisfied me while still seeming true to the characters and their lives; not at all artificial or forced.
Overall this was a stunning book that I truly recommend. It may not go up there in my top ten, but I will not soon forget these characters and I’m very glad that I got to spend some time with them while reading The God of Animals.