This is a great collection, but it is very, very sad. I got this book at a bookstore’s going out of business sale for super cheap and all I knew going in was that it was supposed to be good and from the title I thought it would be about animals or animalistic qualities in people. Something of that sort. While animals do appear in most (all?) of the stories I would say that the most prevalent theme in the collection is grief. And maybe that is the point? In one story a character yells out something like, “animals don’t mourn!”
I think I made the mistake of reading this collection in about two sittings. The amount of death and just plain sadness really got to me. I teared up a few times, but by the end I felt emotionally exhausted. I guess my other mistake was reading this so soon after the perpetual tragedy that is Brothers… Still, I really enjoyed these stories. Most were memorable and stood out well, but there were a few (mainly the very short ones) that could have been left out without me missing them. I do think that the narrative voices sometimes ran together. Quite a few of the stories feature a down-on-his-luck middle-aged man dealing with the aftermath of something bad that happened to him. This got a little tiring and when a story was told from a woman’s point of view I was surprised, but found very little difference in the feel of the narration.
I would definitely recommend this collection though. Poissant often writes with a dry, sarcastic tone which I found enjoyable. It helps to ease the sadness many of the topics in this collection. He writes about relationships ending, losing loved ones old and young, and about making up for lost time. I would not suggest reading the collection all at once, but if you want to laugh, cry, and really think about life– pick this up.