The God of Animals, Aryn Kyle, Scribner, 2007, 305 pp
This book was recommended to me by a co-worker at the bookstore, who is herself a budding writer. I loved it and will be putting it on my top favorites list for the year. It is a first novel and only strengthened my opinion that we are in a Golden Age of new novelists.
Alice Winston is 12 years old and lives a young life of quiet desperation on a run-down horse ranch in a small Colorado desert town. Her older sister, Alice's idol and and an excellent prize winning horse woman, has run off with a rodeo cowboy. The mother of the family has been bedridden with a case of postpartum depression, having rarely left her room since the day Alice was born.
As she tries to be the good daughter and right hand man to her overworked, demanding yet reticent father, Alice is looking, listening, actually lurking in life, trying to understand what the hell is going on. The author masterfully creates the environment of horse ranch and desert small town life juxtaposed with the new rich on the other irrigated side of town, who board their horses at the ranch and send their daughters for riding lessons.
I grew to love Alice and to feel her search for love and understanding like it was my own. Her tragedies, her moments of triumph and breakthroughs in figuring our what happened in her family are all revealed in a haunting prose, as spare as the desert, that is some of the most effortless reading I have done.