"I used to be human once. So I'm told. I don't remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet, just like a human being..."
Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of "that night" when a burning fog of poison smoke from the local factory blazed out over the town of Khaufpur, and the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now just turned seventeen and well schooled in street work, he lives by his wits, spending his days jamisponding (spying) on town officials and looking after the elderly nun who raised him, Ma Franci. His nights are spent fantasizing about Nisha, the girlfriend of the local resistance leader, and wondering what it must be like to get laid.
When Elli Barber, a young American doctor, arrives in Khaufpur to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk -- only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn't there to do the dirty work of the Kampani -- Animal gets caught up in a web of intrigues, scams, and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.
Profane, piercingly honest, and scathingly funny, Animal's People illuminates a dark world shot through with flashes of joy and lunacy. A stunning tale of an unforgettable character, it is an unflinching look at what it means to be human: the wounds that never heal and a spirit that will not be quenched.
I used to be human once. So I'm told. I don't remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being.
"So sweet you were, a naughty little angel. You'd stand up on tiptoe, Animal my son, and hunt in the cupboard for food." This is the sort of thing they say. Only mostly there wasn't any food plus really it isn't people just Ma Franci who says this, she doesn't even say it that way, what she says is tu étais si charmant, comme un petit ange méchant, which is how they talk in her country, plus I'm not really her son nor any kind of angel but it's true Ma's known me all my life, which is nearly twenty years. Most people round here don't know their age, I do, because I was born a few days before that night, which no one in Khaufpur wants to remember, but nobody can forget.
"Such a beautiful little boy you were, when you were three, four, years. Huge eyes you had, black like the Upper Lake at ...
Animal's greatest gift, and the reason he is so sympathetic as a character, is his sense of humor. From the Western perspective, his life is awful: he must walk on all fours, he must beg for food, he believes no one will love him, and he has no opportunity to better himself. To Animal, though, his plight is merely run of the mill; in fact, it's perhaps better than most because his condition has made him special. He can run like an animal, and he has the rare ability to understand the souls of other people, something he attributes to the poison .... Sinha's tale glistens with hope and humanity. Animal's language and story float off the page until we believe that we are in fact listening to his humorous voice rather than reading it. We are left at the end, as we watch Animal saunter away, with a sense of great insight, that we have seen how the 'weak can inherit the earth' and make us all strong.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (1103 words).
is the capital of Madhya Pradesh
in central India. The violent
impact of the tremendous
chemical leak described in
Animal's People is based on
the real life chemical leak in
Bhopal in 1984, which is
considered to be one of the
world's worst industrial
On the morning of December 3, 1984 a holding tank of stored MIC (methyl isocyanate) at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, overheated and released over 40 tonnes of the noxious gas. The gas, which is heavier than air, ...
If you liked Animal's People, try these:
On the night of December 3, 1984, Anjali waits for her husband to pick her up at the train station in Bhopal, India. In an instant, her world changes forever. Her anger at his being late turns to horror when a catastrophic gas leak poisons the city air. Anjali miraculously survives. Her marriage does not.
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