Friday, August 14, 2015

When We Were Animals

On the recommendation of a daily news blog, I picked up Joshua Gaylord’s newest book, When We Were Animals. I’ve had trouble putting into words exactly how I feel about this book, but given the fact it has resonated with me for months now, I feel like I can make a statement.
It was weird.

The novel’s protagonist is Lumen Fowler. The only child of a well-loved couple in her small Midwestern town where teenagers turn into raging savages every full moon. Yes, you read that correctly. For at least a year, beginning at puberty, every resident of this peculiar town “breaches, ” which,  in short, means they run wild and naked through the streets. Those not breaching lock themselves indoors and ignore the outdoor activities of the teenagers as best they can. We meet Lumen as an adult looking back on her strange childhood and even stranger adulthood. The author does a good job answering any questions you might have lingering about the why and how of the town, but the conundrum of Lumen and how she becomes a “normal” married woman and mother escaped me.

The story is very dark and not easy to forget. I was far more put off by adult Lumen than the “breaching” tradition in her hometown. The novel wrapped up by reminding the reader that none of us really know our neighbors as well as we want to believe. I don’t know if I can recommend this book, per se, but I can tell you that a dark story lurks within the pages. It wasn’t difficult to read, but it was hard to accept and a little disturbing—if that makes sense. If you’re looking for something gothic and a little off-kilter, this might just be that book. 

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