Cover Image: Animal

Animal

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Member Reviews

"I am a lot of things but I’m not a sociopath."

What a powerhouse of a book! This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you are so inclined, grab the audiobook narrated by Emma Roberts. The audiobook version is the perfect marriage of narrator and material.

Violent from the very beginning, 'Animal' tells the story of Joan, who has just witnesses a public suicide that drives her away from New York City to Los Angeles. She is seeking the very mysterious Alice, who somehow holds a piece of the puzzle that is Joan's troubled past.

Joan has a history of affairs with married men, and men who are otherwise emotionally unavailable for her. The book is told in the first person as Joan narrates the story of her childhood, her relationship with her parents and her very tumultuous relationship with the men in her life.

"When I saw boys in the streets with their low-slung backpacks, I thought of the girls they liked, the girls who got to be eleven and twelve and thirteen, with unicorn stickers and slap bracelets. I did not get to be any of those ages. I was ten and then I was thirty, and then I was thirty-seven."

Lisa Taddeo has an unflinching view of women's sexuality and how men treat women. If you read 'Three Women' (a must!!) you know she writes with simple, beautiful and often evocative prose. As Joan's story begins to unfold, we learn that her family and her past was even darker than first revealed. Joan experienced much tragedy and that pain never seems to leave her. And it affects all of her adult relationships, with both men and other women.

"I had a fear of angering a man, of not being an amenable woman."

Emma Roberts WAS Joan to me and if this is ever made into a movie, she would be perfect (even though she is a few years younger than Joan in real life.) This book is unsettling to say the least but I found it to be incredibly addictive and moving. Who is Alice? And who is Joan addressing in her narrative when she says "you"? I won't forget this book and its sometimes brutal descriptions. Lisa Taddeo is a a brilliant writer and 'Animal' is one of my favorite audiobooks of 2o21.

"Cruelty looks better on a woman than the perfect dress."
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"Dark, very dark." These are the words that first come to mind in describing 𝐀𝐍𝐈𝐌𝐀𝐋 by Lisa Taddeo. The story is told by Joan, speaking to someone who isn’t revealed until late in the book. She’s telling of her life: the tragedies that were her childhood, the questionable choices she’s made, the sad life she’s led, the hatreds she formed, the depraved plans she holds, and the reasons behind it all. Throughout, I felt awful for Joan and her life, but at the same time I could not feel much sympathy for her. She was so damaged, so brutal, that I was almost always uncomfortable in her presence. I'm sure that was intentional. It's how I was supposed to feel. I think Taddeo wanted to elicit a big reaction, and she did. I just didn't like the way Joan made me feel.⁣
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Taddeo’s writing was very literary, with her story delivered in a choppy style that forced this reader to pay attention, even when I wanted to turn away. There were a lot of tangents that I felt took away from the heart of Joan’s story. Her very raw narration sort of hit me over the head, but at the same time perhaps some of it may have been lost on me. ⁣
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I know this review is a jumble and I’m sorry. I’ve struggled to write it for over a month. In the end, I can only say that I really expected to love 𝘈𝘯𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘭, but I just didn’t. There’s no doubt it’s a powerful book and will have people talking. I’ll be looking forward to hearing the thoughts of others on this one!⁣

Thanks to Avid Reader Press for the ARC of Animal.
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The way this book started and how story unfolded didn't really serve the ending of the book. It was just wrong for me. I understand there are various experiences, various traumas can lead into this type of scenario, but it was too much of a stretch to combine all sort of abuse and loss to say "it was all for you!". I don't want to give out more than that, but if you choose to read the book you'll know who that "you" is and how unjustified the crudity of the events before didn't match the ending.

Don't get me wrong. Crudity won't stop me from reading a book; I don't just read fluffy stuff. I guess I have preference on how it's incorporated into the story or the language itself. Three Women had the similar language but I could justify that. I could see how it was used to enhance the story, but this one felt like as if author had hard time to choose which trauma to stick to so she put them all in. Connection between them was valid up to certain point. 

Maybe Lisa Taddeo will become one of those authors that doesn't really agree with me.. I'll keep reading to see maybe one day my perception change but for now I'll approach with caution I think.
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I enjoy Lisa Taddeo’s style of writing, but Animal is very dark and hard to read at times. Lots of sex, blood, violence, and manipulation paired with a very unlikeable main character. A unique story worth reading and one that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Thank you to Avid Reader Press and NetGalley for this ARC.
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So I seriously can not thank Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster and NetGalley enough for providing me with a copy of this wild ebook! 

What a wild ride this book was! But damn it was amazing!
This is an explosive, mind-bender of a book. And a hard one to.even put down! 
Read this book in like three sittings. Even at my sons baseball practice! I couldn't put it down! 

Protagonist Joan is such a complex character. Sometimes she's a victim. Sometimes she's the perpetrator.
Lisa's writing was beyond amazing in Animal it flowed flawlessly and amazingly! 

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to read this book!
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Animal is a book unlike any other I have read. Lisa Taddeo has a very unique voice and is undoubtedly a phenomenal writer. Animal will make you uncomfortable, cringe at times but through it all, it is unputdownable. 

It follows along with Joan who is throughly unlikeable but as the story goes on it uncovers layers and layers of mistreatment and sexual abuse. We uncover Joan’s trauma and begin to understand how her experience with men shaped her into the women she has become.
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Don't get me wrong, I like dark stories.  I just couldn't get myself into this one.  There seemed to be little reason for it other than to write these increasingly disturbing scenes of a woman with no redeeming qualities who writes in a voice that implies that she has no real interest in her own story either.  It just was not for me.
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2.5 stars 

My reaction to this novel was visceral through every moment of the read, and while I disliked it strongly - content and form - I also know that this kind of reaction is exactly the point. 

The main character, Joan, experiences intense traumas in her childhood, and rather than approaching these instances with healing and processing in mind, she instead turns these feelings into terrorizing others and herself. I'll keep this vague to avoid spoilers, but she is truly awful. 

It's not surprising that Joan is unlikeable, but I did find it fascinating that she seems unapologetically unredeemable. Her sinister nature - well encapsulated in the title - only becomes more intense as the novel progresses, and I frankly felt a little ill the whole time. 

Taddeo pulls off a fascinating inclusion that I did really enjoy: the Rowlandson-esque connection between Joan's relationship to food and her generally predatory nature. These were fun markers to chart, but for me, they did not come close to outweighing how disgusted I was by Joan in general and the scope of the book overall. 

Trauma survivors experience such diverse processes as they engage with and work through their experiences, and this is basically a worst case scenario. I will look forward to Taddeo's alternatively focused efforts in future works. 

TW: rape, sexual assault, child abuse, miscarriage
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I included this in "12 new books to look out for this June" for Pittsburgh City Paper, a monthly new book release roundup that I curate. You can check it out here: https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/12-new-books-to-look-out-for-this-june/Content?oid=19591978
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Look, you are going to have profound feelings (of X emotions), one way or the other, when you read this book. Animal has manifested itself into a cold glass of water straight to the face for so many readers. Some hate it, some love it. Not much in between. I think that is the book’s greatest gift.

First, you get a thoughtful and well-written novel. Some reviewers have mentioned the ending was a bit hasty. They may be right. But that was desirable for me. You are hurtling 10,000 mph towards the reveal, the thing that twisty ties this story together, and I personally do not want that dragged out. 

The second thing is the power of the stories in this novel. I encourage you to sit with those stories, even if they make you uncomfortable. The thing I love about Joan is how different she is from me; I end up learning a lot about myself based on my reactions to the protagonist. 

The third thing is how this book will impact your daily life while reading it and in the few weeks or months after. This book starts as a slow burn. I had a hard time making sense of things through the first few chapters. I was ready to give up. But there was a line where Joan addressed her audience, and I instantly knew she was addressing her child. That kept me hanging on. 

Anyway, the book created an emotional stew that marinated in my mind the entire time I read it. I think this is a book that will stay with you (whether you like it or not) for a very long time. It may even be one of those books you wish you could read again for the very first time. That is a great book in my mind. While you may not jive well with some spiky storylines, I encourage you to absorb the book and the powerful reactions it evokes.  

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if you are losing faith in your book choices, if all the plot lines seem to blur together, let this book be your restart button. 

My sincerest gratitude to NetGalley, Avid Reader Press, and Simon & Schuster for providing an eARC copy to read and review. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been one of the better ones!
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Thank you so much to Avid Reader Press, Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.
I LOVED it!  It is such a compulsive read.  I read in two sittings and was totally immersed in Joan and her world.  The suspense was real, the violence was palpable and I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout.  I loved the style of writing; some say it’s choppy but I found the short sentences and blunt language to be totally in line with the plot and the character.  Others have said Joan is an unlikeable character but I think that’s what makes her so real and relatable. The daughter’s desire to gain her mother’s love and attention was painful to read.  Also, I  can totally relate to believing dad loves you more than  mom only to realize and empathize with the woman’s side of the story later in life.  Motherhood, sisterhood, relationships, sex, power, suicide, murder, rape, miscarriage..…it’s all in here.  Highly recommend and hope my book club takes this on as there is SO much to discuss.
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Animal focuses on Joan who decides to move to Los Angeles in order to find a woman who can help her put together the last missing pieces in the intricate puzzle that is her life. By moving to another city, she’s also running away from her past failed relationships—most of them with married men—which only taught her that she’s dispensable and that most men are pretty much awful. After witnessing Vic, her boss-turned-lover committing suicide right in front of her while she was on a date with another man, she feels completely lost and in desperate need of a change of scenery. This event also motivates her to dig deeper into her past as she wants to have a much clearer image of what made her end up on the wrong trajectory.

She is an unlikeable female character and even early on, the narrative seems to suggest that her behaviour and her past mistakes are caused by traumatic past events. This obsessive pursuit of hers that entails finding and pinpointing the exact incident in her past that made her the way she is becomes quite evident from the very beginning because she reminisces on every interaction she had with men, beginning with her father. Her journey of finding herself and putting the missing pieces together is further complicated by Eleanor, Vic’s daughter, who’s determined to get revenge for her father’s dead, and Lenny, her neighbour who only seems to exacerbate her hatred for men. While I was very intrigued at first and really interested in finding out what happened to her, things were unfolding so slowly that I eventually became quite detached halfway through.

The plot didn’t seem to go anywhere for more than half of the book even though there are numerous shocking and violent events—some of which seem to have the sole purpose of highlighting the brutal world in which Joan lives since there aren’t actual discussions on them or what they mean to Joan. A big part of the story is dedicated to Joan’s obsession with Alice, a woman that we don’t really know much about aside from the fact that she’s younger and very attractive. Even though they are complete strangers, Joan trusts Alice from the very start with her turmoil—something that seems quite atypical for her as she doesn’t really open up to others. She entrusts Alice with details about her affair with Vic, with the story of the only time she actually felt something for a man, and how each time it all ended up badly for her. These confessions make them grow closer, but like every other connection of Joan, it’s more complicated than a meeting of like-minded women. The book promises an explosive woman who is ready to take back everything that has been stolen from her, right every wrong, and not let another man get away with using and abusing her ever again. But the execution fell short especially because of the drawn-out mystery around Joan’s past, but also because her rage never seems quite palpable. It seems very dormant even when she exerts this revenge in a scene that is definitely the highpoint of the book.

The book’s strengths are the representation of abuse and the discussion regarding how normalised it tends to be in our society along with the masterful craft of complicated female characters. However, this is by no means superior to Taddeo’s Three Women where she tackled similar themes and did it much more naturally than here. In Animal, the approach feels way clumsier and more inauthentic, and that’s probably because while Three Women had a confessional feeling around it that could help you empathise with the characters very easily, this one lost it due to the drawn-out mystery.

Taddeo’s Animal is an intriguing, at times bizarre, story about female rage, violence, and revenge. While it failed to hit the mark, for me at least, the writing was really beautiful and haunting which definitely attest to Taddeo’s talent and potential.
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Wow. Having read Lisa Tadeo's debut non-fiction, Three Women, I knew I was in for a treat. I was not prepared for the tour-de-force this novel is! Taddeo's writing is raw & in-your-face and with this story, I don't think it could be written any other way.
Joan is on a mission. She heads to California after her boss (& sometime lover) kills himself in front of her. She is haunted by past trauma and trying to make sense of it by heading out west to meet the only person who may be able to help. You won't always like Joan and you definitely won't like most of her actions but you can definitely sympathize with her. Either way, she and this book will stay with you for a long time after reading it. 

*Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the early e-arc of this novel.*
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Holy. Shit. Literally the feminist manifesto. Talk about a thriller. This book was all over the place and though unrealistic, still wildly entertaining.
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I loved Lisa Taddeo's first book Three Women, so I was looking forward to her fiction debut. Unfortunately, the characters didn't seem real to me and the writing felt choppy.
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I absolutely loved Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, but unfortunately Animal was just not for me. Taddeo is certainly talented and I could definitely see the appeal for other readers however. The writing seemed a bit disjointed, and I'm not sure if the lack of quotation marks is just in the ARCs or will also be in the final copy, but that always makes reading a little more confusing.
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I am so grateful to live in a time where it's almost guarnteed that readers of general fiction or nonfiction or like, even the newspaper, are aware of the apocryphal attributed Matwood Maxim "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
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What does a lifetime of trauma and abuse at the hand of men do to a woman? How does a woman who's been abused and taken advantage of, and traumatized survive? At the heart of it, I think these are the questions that Lisa Taddeo is attempting to answer with Animal. A novel that unravels slowly as Joan, our main character, tells her story to an unknown listener, one whom she speaks to directly throughout, as if explaining herself and imparting her wisdom.  

I was enthralled. Joan is a complicated character, obsessed with sex, but also perhaps a victim of believing she needed to become the woman that everyone believed her to be or wants her to be. She vacillates between relishing the role she plays, and despising it and herself throughout. And to be honest, as a reader, I was right there with her. Is she someone to be pitied or feared? Is she the victim of society? A victim of the men who have abused her and used her or is she using them for her own needs? While she wasn't entirely a likable person, it certainly made me think twice about the molds we place on children, especially young girls, long before they even know who they are, and the repercussions it can have through their lives.  

Did you love Three Women? This one's for you. I'm still processing this one and I think I will be for a long time to come.
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I'm still trying to wrap my head around what exactly it is I have just read.

I also can't really explain anything that happens in the book because I feel like it's something you need to experience for yourself. This isn't really a book you read, it's a book you feel. I couldn't even rate this if you asked me to.

Joan, a thirty-seven year old living in NYC witnesses a shocking event one night while out to dinner. It unleashes in her about 27 years worth of trauma - at the hands of many men that have come into her life. She packs up and heads to LA to search for a woman named Alice who might be able to help her sort through it all. It's dark. It's heavy. The tension builds very, very slowly until all of a sudden you're flying down in the rollercoaster, stomach dipping, everything a blur, and you're not really sure what is up, down, and around.

I'm conflicted. Because on the one hand, I understand what Taddeo is trying to accomplish here, but on the other, there were some scenes that were just...A LOT for me. And ya'll know me, I don't easily get squeamish and I can handle pretty much anything, BUT there were a couple of things that crossed the line for me. (I will share the CW's at the end). They came off as trying to be "edgy" and "shocking" but really just seemed gratuitous and unnecessary for me. One scene truly horrified me.

It's a book that some will either love or hate, but it is definitely a book that will start a lot of conversations. Did I love it or hate it? Gang...I truly don't know, and I honestly don't know if I ever will.

Thank you Avid Reader Press & NetGalley for the eARC.

This is out June 8th!

⚠️CW⚠️
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Rape, including very detailed Child Rape. Miscarriage (VERY detailed).
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Definitely some cringe worthy moments in this sexually candid story of a woman and the men in her life. The main character is not completely likable because of her choices but I found myself turning pages quickly to see how she would relate to the wife and daughter of a former lover or a female customer with whom she connects. This comparison of relating to different sexes make the novel highly readable. Well written but the content can be stark.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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