Animal Bodies

On Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties

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Pub Date 01 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 01 Feb 2022

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How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny, or consider only with shame—our taboo desires and our grief. In landscapes as diverse as Salamanca’s cobbled streets, the Mekong River’s floating markets, Fire Island’s windswept beaches, Nashville’s honky-tonks, and the Sierra Nevada’s snowy slopes, Roberts interrogates her memory and tries to make sense of her own private losses (deaths of people and relationships), as well as more public losses, including a mass shooting in her hometown and environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest.

With lyricism, insight, honesty, and dark humor, these essays illuminate the sometimes terrible beauty of what it means to be human, deepening the conversation on death and grief, sexuality, and the shame that comes from surviving the world in a female body with all of its complexities.

How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny...

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Featured Reviews

It felt like I'd fallen under a spell as I read this book. Roberts weaves stories into powerful insights that honor the complexities of life. She's also darkly funny. The subtitle "Death, Desire and Other Difficulties" covers a wide swath of issues. The ones that most resonated with me were her relationship to her mother (and her mother's past and death), her observations of the way we treat "Animal Bodies" and women's bodies, and how political divides can affect longtime friendships.

Favorite lines:

"I'm always happier wearing travel's cloak of anonymity."
"All life leads to death, so why is it impossible to imagine?"

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy.

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Animal Bodies to me was a very personal book to read. I was reading and seeing the vulnerabilities and life experiences of Suzanne Roberts, someone I have never met, and yet was able to feel the same things I have in periods of my life. Experiences like grief, which people handle differently, and experiencing losses, were where I connected the most with Animal Bodies. I have never read a book like this before and I'm glad that I did because Suzanne Roberts made me feel like it was okay to grieve and to reflect on that time, it makes you understand what you were going through as you read how someone else went through their own.

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This was an absolutely stunning read. I couldn't put it down, so I stayed up all night reading it from the couch. I even missed an eclipse that was happening outside, because I was so enthralled. The prose and lyricism is delicious, the narrator so adept at weaving together these disparate threads and memories. This is my kind of essay collection, and as a writer, it made me want to write—which is about the highest praise I can give to a book. Thank you for writing this gorgeous, complicated collection.

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Animal Bodies is a memoir written through a collection of personal essays. It is a very personal way of presenting your life and contains some gruesome details as well. although if you are thinking that it is nothing more than just a memoir then I guess you are wrong here. It contains issues ranging from racism to negligence towards covid and vaccination by some people. It swings between two generations and more than three decades to show us how the life of the author has evolved for better and for worse. This kind of confessional book demands courage to be able to recall and reproduce what you have endured throughout your life. it really was an honor to read about the author so closely.

The writing style is poetic and philosophical. I felt punched with harsh truths while reading this book. the author has explained in detail her life while she struggled to get hold of what's right and what's not. It discussed childhood trauma, sexual abuse, political disagreement and its impact on relationships, racism in practice, and man more such intricate topics. The author doesn’t give her proclamation but presents her point of agreement and disagreement strongly. Even without actually attacking the doer, she attacks the very practice that had been happening all around her since her teenage and childhood days. She talks about ignorance, victim-blaming, self-depreciation and so much more. It felt like she has poured all the anguish and sadness and wisdom gained over time in this life into this piece of work.

I can't say that I enjoyed reading this, it was painful to read about all the atrocities and wrings the author had to endure. It was uncomfortable to know that she is not the only one and that this story is so similar to so many other people. It really was a bare mirror to society. It is a reality that people try to cover up and decorate with veils. Veiled realities.

Overall, I will recommend this book to anyone who can handle the above-mentioned sensitive topics. Please keep in mind your triggers while picking this book. If you can handle this, then do pick it up and look into the veiled mirror.

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e-arc provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review

it's not often that i skip my usual pre-review quote, but the prose in this book is so beautiful i'm afraid i'd have to copy and paste the entire text.

'animal bodies' is a collection of essays about everything you could possibly think of, from travel to grief to lost friendships, but at the same time a very narrow part of human emotion. despite that, the focus on the darker sides of life was unexpectedly light. i never felt too bogged down in the events described because a turn of phrase here and a nice metaphor there gave these stories an almost surreal quality in my mind and allowed me to view them with the same hindsight as the author instead of shattering my heart. despite the seemingly eclectic subject matter, this collection of essays was cohesive- as much as life can be, surely.

i didn't expect to relate to some of these essays so hard, but even the ones dealing with matters i've had no experience with left a mark on me. expert wordplay does that to a text, i've gathered. there could've been a ten page essay detailing the author's day to day routine and i still would've highlighted every passage to death.

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Thank you so much to Suzanne Roberts, University of Nebraska Press, and NetGalley for an advanced reader's copy of this book. Expected publication date: March 1, 2022

I really, really enjoyed reading this book in a really non-enjoyable way. What I mean is that this book covers a lot of difficult topics, ranging from sexual assault, grief, divorce, politics, the environment, and more. It's hard to say I "enjoyed" reading about the many trials and difficulties faced by the author. Yet, I somehow did. Roberts manages to talk about these issues in a way that doesn't feel exploitative but personal, raw, and honest. By the end, I felt like I had spent the night talking to that really cool Aunt you always admired, hearing all her experiences and life-defining moments by a cozy fire with a massive glass of wine.

I highly recommend (if you have the capacity to read such content).

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Lovely collection of essays and poetic bits of honest insight and reflection of the author's life. Would be nice reading for a creative writing or memoir class/workshop.

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Set to publish March 1, 2022, I HIGHLY recommend this read!! This collection of essays explores death, desire, and other difficulties we face throughout our lives. I found myself drawn to this book from the very first essay. The author’s style is beautiful and makes you feel that you are experiencing these life events with her. There are many relatable emotions throughout and I found myself constantly looking forward to being able to pick up and read again. The personal aspects of this book is what really hit it home for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and University of Nebraska Press for the advanced copy. Thank you to Suzanne Roberts for sharing this work with us!

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Incredibly moving yet so sad, this read showcases the effects of grief and sorrow that we feel in our daily lives. The prose is powerful at conveying such grief that you as the reader can feel the pain. From discussing topics such as death, environmental anxiety to even writing about her beloved dog Riva in her last years you will cry, or actually, you will sob. This read is diverse in its subject natter but incredibly sad nonetheless.

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It has been a long time since I cried over a book.

I'm not sure how to give a summary here. It does what it says on the tin, if we're talking structurally - essays of loss, of loss of self, of loss of others, of greed and selfishness and pain. It is a travelogue of place and emotion. It is also very, very brave.

It is easy to read, in a rubberneckers way, and hard to read, in an emotional way. She talks of the parts of life that I have always been too cowardly to write about, and describes other parts that I am yet to encounter and still able to feel. I feel guilty for saying that, really - those parts aren't my pain, and this isn't fiction but it's testament to her writing, for certain. I think the word 'unapologetic' is overused in terms of creative works, and anyway, she isn't unapologetic - she is honest, but very, very guilty. I'm trying to avoid talking about Suzanne, as I know that goes against the ethos of a review, but as it is a memoir it's no easy talk. I'll leave it on a less emotional note - the descriptions of travel are incredible, her lyrical prose astounding. It is a very powerful piece, and it's not out of politeness that I thank Suzanne Roberts, NetGalley and University of Nebraska press for the chance to read and review this advance copy. No, seriously - thank you. This was excellent, in so many ways.

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I’m judging the L.A. Times 2021 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book read even though it’s nonfiction and not one of the 296 other books I’m charged to read.

Stunner. “The essay is a promise. You say you;ll take them to the dessert, watch the boxes burn, the smoke rising into a starwinking sky. You wouldn’t dare, Mother says. And no water either. We’ll be just fine in your closet.”

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Thank you to Netgalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“you are the crease, where the world beneath the world shows through.”

Animal Bodies was a a moving and deeply lyrical meditation on what it mean to be human; on one of the few universal human experiences- death. Animal Bodies is a thought provoking body of work and I am so glad that I was able to read this book early. I highly recommend this book especially for people who have anxiety about death and are trying to come to terms with it. It is not an easy read but it a necessary one.

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Thank you NetGalley and University of Nebraska Press for providing me with an e-arc of Animal Bodies: On Death, Desire and Other Difficulties. I don’t even know where to begin with this book it made my heart break and then mended it all whilst the occasional satirical comment made me laugh. This collection follows stories and incidents abkut topics such as divorce, cheating, fat shaming, slut shaming, sexual assault and grief. Roberts tackles each difficult topic in a raw and new way through the lens of her life. Everything written about in this collection was striking and beautiful. I would highly recommend this to everyone, it is an essential read.

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This essay collection is one of the best I've read, and I've read a lot of them (over 30 last year... I may have a problem.) I absolutely loved how Roberts excavated her grief and made something so beautiful of it. The essays about the craft of writing were perhaps my favourite, especially the ones which deliberately deconstructed the process of turning the personal (e.g. her husband's medical procedures) into something for the public to read, and how memoir is both a selfish and selfless act; how it's often presented as an entirely internal, introspective genre, but in fact it brings in the experiences of all those people close to the writer, and is inevitably the story of others, too. It made me want to write. Perhaps ironically, I wish I could write more here about it, but it's the kind of book that I think has to percolate in your brain a bit before you can really parse it. I know I'll be thinking about it for a very long time. Now to seek out everything else that Suzanne Roberts has ever written.

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Animal Bodies is a series of short nonfiction essays that follow the author, Suzanne Roberts, experiences through grief, love, and life. She explores the link between death and desire while revisiting her own life experiences. Through beautiful and lyrical prose she walks readers through some of the most devastating and beautiful moments of her life.
This collection is undoubtedly unlike anything I’ve read before. Roberts' distinct voice gives each essay its own spotlight, pulling readers into her stories. She imparts important life lessons and advice with each essay, creating an important and unique connection between the reader and the author.
I really enjoyed Roberts’ writing and definitely want to read more from her. It’s hard to rate essay collections like this because some stories I found phenomenal while others were just okay. Roberts’ certainly possesses wisdom within her that readers are lucky enough to receive through this collection. There are some parts which I found a little tedious and think could have been edited down a bit more. But for the most part I really appreciated Roberts’ unique use of language and prose.
My main criticism of this book is the tone. A lot of parts of this collection came off as pretentious to me. I’m sure that was never the intention however, at certain points it really turned me off from the book. Between stories of traveling around the world and the way relationships were written about, certain parts had a pretentious tone that created a distance between myself and the text.
Overall I think this book was really well written and Suzanne Roberts has a lot of really important things to share. I would highly recommend this for people who enjoy personal anecdotes and life lessons in medium to slow paced books.

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a really interesting, thoughtful and at times heartbreaking look at grief and life and all the messy and lovely bits in between. roberts talks about her ex husband, her relationship with her parents, and her friendships, with such care and heart that i felt so much when i was reading this book. i recommend for an essay collection that feels a bit different!!

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Lyrical, vulnerable and raw, Roberts' memoir-in-essays is a window into the complicated emotions of what it means to be human.

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Memoirs are definitely becoming my favorite genre, there’s something deeply compelling about someone telling their own story and Animal Bodies is no exception. The major theme on this book is grief and the author is very insightful on her process of dealing with different types of loss. Losing a parent, a friendship, an estranged friend or a pet are different experiences but they also feed on each other and I particularly liked how Suzanne Roberts connects them. This is the first work I read of her, but I will definitely check out what else she has done.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with the arc on this wonderful book!

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This book was a very welcome surprise, and entirely not what I thought it would be about. It definitely covers the topics in the title, but in a very different way to how I expected.

For starters, the topics above appear as if they would lend themselves to a slow, reflective book. If anything, parts of this book go at a break-neck speed. That is not to fault the writing at all, but rather is one of its strengths- Suzanne Roberts can write, and often hits her stride with a story that just unspools in layers of conversation, meaning and imagery almost breathlessly.

Similarly, this book feels deeply personal and vulnerable, really pushing to the absolute borders of what most share, and then traversing beyond it. We cover her parents' mortality, the death of animals, painful memories of former relationships, and lighter moments of her current life, with the anxieties that lurk beneath.

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The lyrical prose in this book is like the book equivalent being hypnotized. Once I started reading this book I couldn't stop!

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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

It’s hard to comment on grief and how others deal with it, so writing a review for a memoir all about death and grief seems a bit impossible, but I’ll try to explain my thoughts and rating a bit below.

Overall, this memoir was such a great read! The author has a great way of mixing dark humor with her highly emotional recollections of various things from her life, from loss and grief to love and friendship. I found myself oscillating between quite a few emotions myself while reading: laughing out loud at some parts, tearing up at others, to even relating to some of her revelations as well.

My favorite sections were when the author really honed in on her connection with nature and the environment. I personally have a lot of “eco-anxiety” and spend a lot of time reflecting on how my decisions impact animals and the world around us (from plastic use to climate change), so reading about similar thoughts and feelings really hit me hard.

The main flaw I had with this was completely personal preference in regards to structure, as I I have a hard time staying focused when it comes to collections of short stories/essays. I knew going into this memoir that it was a short story collection, so again, totally on me, but I felt myself putting down my e-reader at the end of certain stories that felt like a perfect “closing story” for me and then not picking it back up again for a few days.

With that said, it was still a great exploration in connecting to nature and those around you, dealing with death, and the emotions that go along with these heavy topics.

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This was a lovely poetic memoir about death, relationships, and travel. The essays/chapters ranged from grieving her parents to losing close friends over political differences to debating abortion with strangers on the street. I could tell from the beginning that Roberts is also a poet and it made the process of reading really nice. It did take me a while to get through, but I think that’s just because a lot of the topics were heavy. I thoroughly cried and had to take a break after “The Last Goodbye” about her dog, Riva. Overall, I would definitely recommend this as a wonderful reflection on the things we lose in life whether from family, pets, friends, and relationships, to ways of enjoying life (like traveling, when discovering the realities of tourism).

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I'm glad that NetGalley introduced me to this wonderful book of short stories, which discusses grief, desire, and other difficulties. I am glad that I got learn about how different people deal with the death of loved ones, especially those who lost their parents and are now dealing with grief. My least favorite section of the book is called Desire. While I enjoyed seeing how divorced couples loved before separating, it was strange seeing this is what the author wrote for the word desire. The last section focused on a couple whose marriage was falling apart and it was an excellent section to end on. While it's sad that their marriage didn't last, I'm glad to hear of the woman's adventures in Vietnam and Colombia.

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"The ways we recognize a musical score -by its scales, the repeating octaves- is similar to the way we recall grief. A musical scale can transport us to another time and place, as if the music has always lived inside us, and like the notes that bring music out of our bodies, one grief recalls another. Each new sadness dips into the well of the rest, carrying the old grief with the new."

3.5 ✨

Animal Bodies by Suzanne Roberts is a collection of essays split in three parts: Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties. My favorite part was the first and probably read all essays included within a couple of days. The second part on desire was my least favorite even though it was deeply honest and the last part included a mix of stories that often touched on themes of death and desire.

The essays included in Animal Bodies are chronicled through various timelines and touch on Suzanne Roberts' loss of her father, mother, and dog, but also on her divorce, travels, and friendships.

This was my first encounter with Suzanne Roberts and various of the themes discussed in her essays (such as feminism, sexual assault, loss, nature, and childfree lives) are among my top interests when I'm reading such collections and especially nonfiction. But a few times while reading I wasn't sure that I actually liked the author that much which made me disconnect a bit.

However, I found some comfort in her writing about grief and related to how complex our feelings and emotions towards our parents can be even after their loss.

"Without love there is no grief."

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

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Animal Bodies was a very personal book to me and I honestly feel like the whole world can connect with this book with everything that has happened in the past 2 years. I love how Roberts touches on the topics such as death, desire, and other difficult things in life. This book shows how no matter what you go through there’s ways to get through it and you don’t necessarily have to do it alone. This book is going to make you feel like it’s okay to grieve BECAUSE IT IS AND ITS TOTALLY NORMAL TO DO THAT. And that it’s okay to reflect on time and that you never have to rush your grievances. It’ll make you understand what you or someone you might know is going through and how reading this Roberts went through this on her own yet we can all connect on it.

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First and foremost, I'd like to thank University of Nebraska Press for gifting me this lovely copy of Suzanne Roberts's Animal Bodies. I was drawn to it thanks to the gorgeous cover on NetGalley, and jumped at the opportunity to review a physical copy when it was offered to me. I enjoy the convenience of reading ebooks on my iPad Mini, but would always prefer the satisfaction of flipping through paper pages (and using an actual bookmark 😉).

Animal Bodies is a collection of essays on death, desire, and other difficulties. I love how the Oxford comma is utilised on the cover; iykyk. I also love the prose contained within, how each chapter is branded with the author's own style and laments. It takes a lot of courage to write about difficult and important edifices in your life, and to do it in a creative way instead of the bog-standard "dear diary, this and this happened and it made me sad" makes it so much more enjoyable to read.

And as with all non-fiction, I didn't read this in one go and instead really took my time, by reading one or two short chapters a day. (FYI, it took me 28 days to finish reading this. Granted, I was oscillating between 6 other books, so...)

Standouts are "Becoming Bird", where Roberts likens episodes in her life with certain birds; "Friending the Dead", where she struggles to forgive a recently deceased man who sexually tormented her when she was a child; and so much more. To be honest, I really liked every single chapter, for they each had their own agenda and, perhaps, if you read into them more deeply, a moral.

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A truly stunning exploration of grief, loss, desire, and love that had me both laughing and crying. A painful yet beautiful memoir.

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"The ways we recognize a musical score -by its scales, the repeating octaves- is similar to the way we recall grief. A musical scale can transport us to another time and place, as if the music has always lived inside us, and like the notes that bring music out of our bodies, one grief recalls another. Each new sadness dips into the well of the rest, carrying the old grief with the new."

Animal Bodies is a collection of essays detailing the life experiences and vulnerabilities of the author, Suzanne Roberts. The chronological order of the essays set out a timeline for the reader to follow the events in the author's life. The use of humor to combat dark themes speed the reading along and made it enjoyable. The personal aspects of the text forced me to read until the very end. I cannot wait to see what else the author releases.

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A meditative look on loss and grief, this memoir was, sadly, very relatable. I will be recommending it to anyone who reads memoirs but also anyone looking to explore their emotions after the weirdness of these past few years.

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