With Lisa Taddeo’s debut novel we meet Joan. Once you meet Joan, it’s difficult to un-meet Joan. In fact, despite being half-way through another novel, as soon as I picked up Animal the other novel got shoved aside. Taddeo’s character is beguiling, unflinching and through Alice, you are keen to find out more.
Lisa Taddeo, being the acclaimed writer of Three Women, spent eight years and thousands of hours tracking the women whose stories are incorporated into the book, moving to the towns they lived in to better understand their lives. She has contributed to New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour and many other publications. Her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes, and Animal is her debut novel.
Joan drove herself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of her. He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig. He did it in a restaurant where she was having dinner with another man, another married man. Do you see how this is going?
Animal is a pacey, “how did things end up this way?” type novel and it’s impossible to put down as soon as you pick up. The prose and the character renders it a helluva read with a plot that seems to move very little, but we, like Alice, want to listen intently to the plot as it moves along the temporal timeline, back and forth. And though at times it may seem the plot’s inconceivable, with a past like Joan’s, there is no doubting this outcome.
For those that might be triggered, I will flag that abuse is highly common throughout the entirety of Taddeo’s novel and the plot is riddled with it. From what happened to Joan at a young age has ultimately seen her end up in countless abusive relationships to married men and a willingness to accept whatever attention men offer her. It’s all too common and sadly relative to many of us. However, there is a wonderfully strong and emotive side to Joan along with twists you don’t necessarily predict as the novel progresses. It’s disturbing, triggering, warm and stunning all at the same time.
It’s frustrating that for many this is not escapism and will be a difficult read, Taddeo portrays and highlights with such scorn and a fine-tuned pen the repercussions and upsetting effects of abuse.
Animal is out now, published by Bloomsbury.