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The five heartbreaking and radiant stories in John Fulton's The Animal Girl explore the awkwardness of situations in which grief and erotic love collide Here are people in extremis struggling mightily and often failing to keep it together In the Pushcart Prize–winning Hunters Fulton contrasts the humorous clumsiness of dating with the grim realities of death in the tale of a middle aged woman who keeps her cancer a secret when she starts a relationship with an avid hunter In the novella length title story a lonely adolescent girl deals with the recent loss of her mother and the alien presence of her father's new girlfriend by taking out her aggression on her boss and on the animals she cares for in her summer job at a research laboratory The final story in the collection The Sleeping Woman delves into the inner life of Evelyn a divorced professional woman who falls in love with Russell a man whose wife is permanently brain damaged and has been unresponsive for years The ghostly presence of Russell's wife haunts Evelyn as she discovers how her lover has been scarred by his misfortune and searches for ways they might build a long term relationship in the wake of personal tragedyThese powerful stories approach the often sentimentalized subject of romance with tenderness and insight into the heart worn perspective of characters who have failed at love in the past In lucid revelatory prose Fulton navigates the complexity of both mid life courtship and adolescent rage with humor and intelligence

10 thoughts on “The Animal Girl

  1. says:

    I enjoyed this book so much that I've already read it twice Granted I'm a bit inclined to enjoy a book where I can easily picture the characters and their location I've lived in and around Ann Arbor Michigan for 12 years now However Fulton does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the worlds of his charactersIt's easy to feel the grief uestions concerns that they all feel It's easy to want to be mad at them for decisions they're making and actions they take At the same time though there's a connection that arises that draws you in and just won't let go You realize that these are people we all know people we've met and that the lives on the paper are ones that could easily exist in the real world Fulton does an excellent job of portraying the emotions and feelings of his female characters He truly understands what draws them to their conclusions and does so in such a way that the reader is left feeling a bit nostalgic that they've finished reading that portion of the book One of my favorite parts was trying to figure out exactly where the characters were For me this helped a lot in terms of visualizing the scenery However I think I would have enjoyed it just as much without knowing this area as well as I dosubstituting in the descriptions he providesI have already recommended this book to my friends and highly recommend it to all of you It's offered a peak into the lives of others who could easily be people I meet every day and did so in a caring and enlightening wayThank you John

  2. says:

    This guy was the only person to offer me actually useful advice about graduate school So even though I didn't follow his advice exactly Don't go into debt for an MFA the teaching fellowship wasn't uite enough to live ongiven my uh appetites I feel a little indebted to himSo John pretty much no one earns than four stars from meNow my two centsSo much grief in this book I can't help making a comparison to Haslett's You Are Not A Stranger Here and in particular The Beginnings of Grief I'm actually impressed with Fulton's knack for conveying pain shock etcOn the other hand there are times I'm very much aware of the writer pulling strings behind the not so invisible curtain For example in Real Grief it's hard to credit a thirteen year old boy with a thought like She had a passion for stray things No that sounds like a clever guy with a graduate degree using his character as a puppet Get your hand out of your players' bums haha?Overall though I liked this book a lot and I'm not blowing smoke up anyone's hoo hah just ask the other UMass faculty member about whose book I also wrote here who uh stopped talking to me I don't know about like an old master Boston Sunday Globe blurb but still young enough to remain relevant for a long time and also very promising? Definitely

  3. says:

    If you care about fiction run away from this book I don't think I've ever read stories so afraid of themselves so many safe ideas written up in safe secondhand language It's the kind of enervating book that made me think halfway through that my memory of fiction must be false that maybe it was all this terrible In despair I grabbed Denis Johnson's 'Jesus' Son' off the shelf and read the first page to instant relief Any one page of Johnson is worth than this whole bookI finished 'The Animal Girl' only because its failures are so instructive Here are a few of the big ones 1 There's not a sharply drawn character in the whole book which is remarkable given that the stories are character driven Every character is a summary of a person not a person Fulton's men are especially empty all of them generalized non entities His characters are so bland and inexact it makes you wonder whether he really pays attention to people 2 The language is unambitious inexact prosaic and unconsciously bad There's a great deal of fiction here and his fictional tics are those of an undergraduate 3 There is no sexual or romantic energy between his couples despite all the time he spends cutely tip toeing into their interest in each other The least immediate parts of the book are the sex scenes 4 Every thought feeling and act is always absolutely spelled out in the blandest possible way There is nothing for the reader to discover in these stories because Fulton does not trust his reader 5 The stories don't end in any fictionally coherent way; they peter into the most obligatory kind of summary or most embarrassingly in the case of the title story resort to a dream When people complain about forgettable careerist workshop fiction this is the book they're talking about

  4. says:

    I'm really not sure what to say about this book The writing itself had a rhythm to it that carried me along But the stories uite thoroughly disturbed me And it takes a LOT to genuinely disturb me in writing I think I just need to wait for the book club discussion to get my thoughts in order for this one shudder

  5. says:

    3 short stories and 2 novellas The 3 short stories are simple and well executed The 2 novellas 'Animal Girl' and 'The Sleeping Woman' however make this collection worth the price of admission

  6. says:

    The novella this book is titled for is absolutely amazing I met the author at the Dire Reader series in Cambridge MA and picked it up there It wrecked me I tell you I was in tears poolside in Vegas

  7. says:

    I'm not much of a short story reader but having said that I really liked this collection of stories I think the author John Fulton really captures and describes some rather uncomfortable truths about life and loss The writing is just beautiful in that sort of aching way Good stuff

  8. says:

    Lovely sentences but the women are misogynist cliches

  9. says:

    One of the best collections of short stories I have read in a while

  10. says:

    I heard John Foulton do a reading from a good portion of this book very vivid images and uite intriguing stories