Summary and book reviews of The Animals by Christian Kiefer

The Animals

by Christian Kiefer

The Animals by Christian Kiefer X
The Animals by Christian Kiefer
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

1
1996

What you have come for is death. You might try to convince yourself otherwise but you know in your heart that to do so would be to set one falsehood upon another. In the end there is no denying what is true and what is only some thin wisp of hope that clings to you like hoarfrost on a strand of wire. At least you have learned that much, although you are loath to admit it just as you are loath to come down the mountain, down from the animals, to confirm what you already know you will find. All the while you can feel their shining eyes upon you, their noses pulling at your scent, their bodies pressed tight against the interlaced fencing of their enclosures. The world in its bubble and you holding fast to its slick interior as if to the blood-pumped safety of a womb. You and the animals. And yet after everything you have done, everything you have tried to do, everything you promised yourself, today you know you will have to put on the old clothes of the killer once again.

It was not ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ultimately, this is a story about the decisions we make and the inevitable consequences they set in motion for ourselves and others. It is also about the ironic distance between wildness and civilization. Human society is not portrayed very positively here: it is all bars, casinos, and brutal fights. By contrast, the refuge is a place of peace and regeneration. How close are humans to animals? And, more metaphorically, who are the real 'animals' of this novel? Judging by their behavior, it is the human characters that are more beastly here.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (841 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

Amid the wild backdrop of a blizzard-wracked Idaho winter, Kiefer weaves loyalty, self-destruction, and survival into a story that's equal doses of raging suspense and thought-provoking gray areas. A great choice for mystery and literary-fiction book groups.

Publishers Weekly

A mesmerizing literary thriller… there's a thrilling story line that builds in momentum to an inevitable denouement, paced by prose that's poetic without ever succumbing to preciousness. This is a compelling, thoughtful novel.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Devastatingly beautiful. This novel embodies why we write and why we read.

Author Blurb Janet Fitch, author of Paint it Black and White Oleander
This tough-minded thriller weaves a hot red thread through an introspective, sensuous landscape, a meditation on instinct, memory and the nature of friendship between species and between men.

Author Blurb Edan Lepucki, author of California
Every once in a while, a book moves me to tears with the grace of its prose, the depth and humanity of its characters, and the ferocity of its singular vision. Christian Kiefer's The Animals is such a book: a startling and beautiful novel about friendship, grief, and the urge to start over, to be blameless. I loved it.

Author Blurb Richard Ford
A rare young stylist, with an abundance of vivid, engrossing stories in his brain; Christian Kiefer is a genuine find.

Author Blurb Tupelo Hassman, author of Girlchild
"Kiefer creates a wilderness for us in these pages with as sure a hand as any god. All of life's hardest questions are put to us with such confidence we do not see the hand at work. The Animals is beyond a pleasure to read.

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Beyond the Book

Animal Ark in Reno, Nevada

In the acknowledgments section at the end of The Animals, Christian Kiefer reveals that the inspiration for Bill Reed's North Idaho Wildlife Rescue came partially from Animal Ark in Reno, Nevada. Opened in 1981, Animal Ark provides a haven for injured and abandoned animals that, for whatever reason, cannot be released back into the wild. Some have been hit by cars or were part of the illegal pet trade.

The operation is set on 38 acres and aims to recreate the native habitat of North American predators. Key groups of species represented at Animal Ark include:

  • Raptors: American kestrel, barn owl, red-tailed hawk, and great-horned owl
  • Canids: Arctic fox, gray wolf, coyote, red fox, and kit fox
  • Felines: bobcat, lynx, and mountain lion
  • ...

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