Should Your Book Club Read We the Animals by Justin Torres?

We the Animals is a wonderful little book, one you can easily read in one or two evenings.  It’s about three little boys of mixed-race descent growing up in a household of little income, even less parenting, but, one has to believe, a lot of love.  There’s not a traditional plot; rather, each chapter is a window into the life of this heart-wrenching family.

This is, as I said, a short novel, which I like, but it’s a beautiful one.  The language is almost poetic, and considering that the book is narrated by the youngest brother, the contrast between what he says and how he says it lends a level of poignancy to the story that serves it well.  One can’t help but feel for these little boys, their over-worked and self-effacing mother, and their well-intentioned but frustrated, macho dad.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the end of the book, though in some ways shocking, comes as no surprise at all.  It left me wondering, “when, oh when, will we know what happens to them?  When is the sequel?”

So, should your book club read it?  I’d say this is a book most everyone will like, or at least appreciate, but the lack of traditional plot may pose a problem for those book clubs that don’t approach their discussion in a structured way.  I won’t be selecting this for our Literary Masters book groups, but that is not to detract from the novel.  I highly, highly recommend it for individuals, and if your book club reads it, do let me know how ‘deep’ a discussion you end up having.