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The Animals: A Novel by Christian Kiefer

The Animals: A Novel

by Christian Kiefer

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It's hard to praise the powerful story Kiefer tells in this novel without spoiling the plot -- each chapter peels back layers of truths and untruths in such a carefully crafted way that I can't say much more about the story than the book jacket does without ruining the experience of peeling back those layers for yourself. Some will find that process frustrating, but I loved the hard reality of it.

What I can praise openly, though, is the prose. Kiefer is a master stylist, crafting gorgeous sentences and revealing rich detail. His work with characters is solid, but his work with the environment -- with the natural world, landscape and wildlife -- is stunning, not just for the rhythms of the language but also, especially, for how he uses that beautifully wrought environment to reveal more about the lives of his characters than even they seemed aware of. For me, the writing here was inspiring: I actually took longer to finish reading this book because Kiefer's beautiful prose kept sending me to work on my own novel -- he set a bar I wanted to rise to.

An excellent book by a masterful writer. ( )
  Snoek-Brown | Feb 7, 2016 |
Over a decade after leaving behind a crime-ridden past, Bill Reed lives a quiet life tending to an animal sanctuary in Idaho. Opened by his uncle, the sanctuary is home to injured wildlife that have helped rescue Bill just as much as he helped them. Despite attempts to forget his past, when a childhood friend is released from prison, Bill is forced to face the actions he took and decisions he made so many years before.

From the first lines of its haunting opening, written in second-person perspective, The Animals establishes its overarching themes. Can we truly move forward from our past or is it bound to catch up with us? In scenes that flash between decades, both moving forward until they converge, Kiefer combines the beauty of literary fiction with the suspense of a crime novel.

“What you have come for is death. You might try to convince yourself otherwise but there is no truth but the truth that is, and yet still you will come down the mountain, down from the animals, as if you might encounter something other than what you already know will be, your hope the clinging desires of a fool.”

Though the shifts in perspective feel slightly disjointed at first, the purpose becomes clear as the novel progresses and each return to the telling you grows more ominous than the last. Bill’s intense relationship with the animals he cares for, the new life he’s built and the past he made every attempt to leave behind collide in a powerful conclusion that highlights Kiefer’s incredible talent. One of the best novels of 2015 so far, The Animals is a fantastic example of powerful story in the hands of a master writer.

More at rivercityreadig.com ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 087140883X, Hardcover)

For fans of Denis Johnson and Peter Matthiessen, a literary thriller from one of the most exciting new voices in American fiction.

Bill Reed manages a wildlife sanctuary in rural Idaho, caring for injured animals—raptors, a wolf, and his beloved bear, Majer, among them—that are unable to survive in the wild. Seemingly rid of his troubled past, Bill hopes to marry the local veterinarian and live a quiet life together, the promise of which is threatened when a childhood friend is released from prison. Suddenly forced to confront the secrets of his criminal youth, Bill battles fiercely to preserve the shelter that protects these wounded animals and to keep hidden his turbulent, even dangerous, history. Alternating between past and present, Christian Kiefer contrasts the wreckage of Bill’s crime-ridden years in Reno, Nevada, with the elusive promise of a peaceful future. In finely sculpted prose imaginatively at odds with the harsh, volatile world Kiefer evokes, The Animals builds powerfully toward the revelation of Bill’s defining betrayal—and the drastic lengths Bill goes to in order to escape the consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:01 -0400)

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