Monday, January 25, 2016

Beasts and Children

Beasts and Children by Amy Parker
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2/2/16
eBook review copy; 320 pages
trade paperback ISBN-13: 9780544370135

Beasts and Children by Amy Parker is a very highly recommended heart-breaking short story collection.
All the stories in this collection are interconnected, with characters reappearing and their stories continuing from one story to the next, and following these characters from childhood to adulthood. All of the stories also feature animals. Read together these stories are complementary; the recurring characters of the stories create the feeling of a novel since all the stories are interrelated.

The writing is very good, descriptive and haunting, but the stories can be dark and depressing, with children and animals firmly at the mercy of selfish, obstinate, egocentric adults who are, quite frankly, neglecting them through their disregard, inattention, and carelessness. There are a couple times when I almost refused to continue reading. For those with a tender heart toward children and animals, this one might be too difficult to read to the end. In the end, I was glad I finished this collection, but, oh my, there were some tears and struggles to get there.

Table of Contents:
The White Elephant: It's 1967 and the last year sisters Cissy and Carline Bowman have an unbroken family.
Rainy Season: Jill Foster and Maizie, her little sister, are the daughters of diplomats in Chiang Mai. Disaster results occur when Jill decides to leave the compound one night and Maizie follows.
The Balcony: Danny's mother pulls him out of school and they hit the road with his dog Orla. She's following a man she's obsessed with.
Endangered Creatures: Jill and Maizie, who are in trouble with their father over their adventure, visit a Thai orphanage with a woman and her daughter.
Beasts and Children: Jerry's father tries to teach him to be tough after his mother leaves them. (This story is almost too much to bear.)
Catastrophic Molt: Cissy and Carline reflect on the year their mother was dying from cancer.
The Corpse Diver: Jill and Jerry are married and struggling with a needy woman who lives nearby. "When Piper was born, Jill got tired and Jerry got religion."
Sunfish: Daniel (Danny; Cissy and Carline's cousin) has fallen in love with Maizie.
A Neighborly Day for a Beauty: Maizie is deciding whether she wants to continue with her pregnancy.
Grace: Carline's life may be changing when she meets a single father.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes.

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