Tammy kept losing jobs—at the checkout counter, as a hospital cleaner, and now with the before-and-after-school program. But what worried her most was Sam, her youngest. From the time he was very young it had been clear that something was wrong with Sam, seriously wrong. And though they didn’t often speak of it, the whole family could certainly see it. “He’s pathetic,” Sam’s sister Letitia would sneer to her friends, “pathetic.” Tammy never felt that way herself, not for a moment. But what was she to do?—that was the question. Animals follows Sam on the extraordinary odyssey that begins with Tammy’s decision. Central to the narrative of his progress are the Stinson family—above all Naomi Stinson, a young girl who develops a special feeling for the strange creature, Sam.
Animals is set in an indeterminate future in which virtually all the species that humans have for millennia used as food have become extinct; the world it creates is at once eerily foreign and disturbingly familiar. In the sharp-edged poignancy of the ethical questions it poses, in the strikingly innovative narrative techniques it employs, and above all, in the remarkable power of the story it tells, Animals is, quite simply, unique.
“A powerful piece of writing, and a disturbing call to conscience.” — J.M. Coetzee, Nobel-Prize winning author of Disgrace
“LePan has an affectless, dispassionate writing style, and he convincingly paints a picture of a callous, self-serving, dystopian world. … He has an astute understanding of the contradictions and weaknesses of human nature…Animals will most certainly make you look at that steak on your dinner plate a little differently.” — The Boston Globe
“Immediately gripping and deeply moving, Animals … is an engrossing, elegantly written, and timely contribution to the great tradition of dystopic fiction.” — Kathryn Shevelow, Professor of English Literature, University of California, San Diego; author of For the Love of Animals
“As gripping as it is important, LePan’s brilliant novel tackles the largest moral issue of our time.” — Jonathan Balcombe, author of Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
“Two books stand out among this year’s first novels: Don LePan’s Animals and Johanna Skibsrud’s Giller Prize-winning The Sentimentalists. If you read nothing else from this year’s batch of novels, however, read Animals. Few Canadian novels have been as powerful. Animals is a dystopian satire set somewhere around the late twenty-first century. However dramatic its subject matter, what ultimately makes this book so compelling is its subtlety. It is disturbing and gripping and relentlessly well told. Like Kazuo Ishiguro’s best work (it reminded me in many ways of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go), it succeeds through its narrative restraint. It would be easy to go overboard in this type of world-gone-wrong dystopia but LePan never does. Instead, LePan delivers a tale that is at its most poetic at all the most jarring moments. There is an awful lyrical intensity, an ability to evoke a fragile state of innocence in the midst of a brutality that resides in people’s attitudes as much as their actions, that makes Animals especially poignant. A great part of its power lies in what LePan manages to avoid; the narrative is suggestive rather than graphic or confrontational. … Animals triumphs by registering these ideas with an immediacy and satiric edge that give an altogether new force to familiar ideas.” — University of Toronto Quarterly
“As an analysis of the human capacity to reconcile sentiment with savagery, Animals is spot on: psychologically incisive, admirably disquieting. … What makes the book powerful is just how keenly [the axe wielded by the book] cuts through our ethical hypocrisy.” — The Globe and Mail
“Animals … has the moral clarity and narrative drive of the best of the [dystopian] genre. … Even those who might disagree with LePan’s thesis will be compelled by the implications of this well-plotted and formally audacious tale.” — Publishers’ Weekly