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In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family From the tense territory of a sagging, grand porch in Texas to a gated community in steamy Thailand to a lonely apartment in nondescript suburbia, these linked stories unwind the lives of three families as they naviga In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family From the tense territory of a sagging, grand porch in Texas to a gated community in steamy Thailand to a lonely apartment in nondescript suburbia, these linked stories unwind the lives of three families as they navigate ever-shifting landscapes. Wry and sharp, dark and subversive, they keep watch as these characters make the choices that will change the course of their lives and run into each other in surprising, unforgettable ways. The Bowmans are declining Texas gentry, heirs to an airline fortune, surrounded by a patriarch's stuffed trophies and lost dreams. They will each be haunted by the past as they strive to escape its force. The Fosters are diplomats’ kids who might as well be orphans. Jill and Maizie grow up privileged amid poverty, powerless to change the lives of those around them and uncertain whether they have the power to change their own. The Guzmans have moved between Colombia and the United States for two generations, each seeking opportunity for the next, only to find that the American dream can be as crushing as it is elusive. Amy Parker's debut collection considers--with an unfailingly observant eye--our failures and our successes, our fractures and our connections, our impact and our evanescence. She marks herself a worthy heir to the long tradition of smart women casting cool and careful glances at the American middle class.


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In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family From the tense territory of a sagging, grand porch in Texas to a gated community in steamy Thailand to a lonely apartment in nondescript suburbia, these linked stories unwind the lives of three families as they naviga In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family From the tense territory of a sagging, grand porch in Texas to a gated community in steamy Thailand to a lonely apartment in nondescript suburbia, these linked stories unwind the lives of three families as they navigate ever-shifting landscapes. Wry and sharp, dark and subversive, they keep watch as these characters make the choices that will change the course of their lives and run into each other in surprising, unforgettable ways. The Bowmans are declining Texas gentry, heirs to an airline fortune, surrounded by a patriarch's stuffed trophies and lost dreams. They will each be haunted by the past as they strive to escape its force. The Fosters are diplomats’ kids who might as well be orphans. Jill and Maizie grow up privileged amid poverty, powerless to change the lives of those around them and uncertain whether they have the power to change their own. The Guzmans have moved between Colombia and the United States for two generations, each seeking opportunity for the next, only to find that the American dream can be as crushing as it is elusive. Amy Parker's debut collection considers--with an unfailingly observant eye--our failures and our successes, our fractures and our connections, our impact and our evanescence. She marks herself a worthy heir to the long tradition of smart women casting cool and careful glances at the American middle class.

30 review for Beasts and Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joce (squibblesreads)

    WHOA.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Whoa, this book. The beasts and the children here—every story features at least one of each—are not in good places. The children are at the mercy of self-absorbed and narcissistic adults—misled at their best, and often cruelly negligent—and the beasts are at the mercy of children and adults alike. Anyone who knows me knows that I have little stomach for children in peril, and even less for endangered animals (I know it should be the other way around, but that’s how I’m wired). And there were a n Whoa, this book. The beasts and the children here—every story features at least one of each—are not in good places. The children are at the mercy of self-absorbed and narcissistic adults—misled at their best, and often cruelly negligent—and the beasts are at the mercy of children and adults alike. Anyone who knows me knows that I have little stomach for children in peril, and even less for endangered animals (I know it should be the other way around, but that’s how I’m wired). And there were a number of points early on in the book where I just thought I’d have to put it down. But the writing is wonderful—strong and innovative—and the stories feed into each other in a way that ramped up my attention, not so much linked as braided, a few strands that come together as the book progresses. The publisher’s blurb invokes Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee—which, along with the fabulous cover, is certainly why I picked up the galley in the first place—and some of Parker’s bemused, slightly sad children’s voices remind me a bit of early Ellen Gilchrist. It’s a grueling experience that works its way up to a kind of emotional transcendence; I'm not sure how else to describe it. Beautiful writing that takes the reader on a journey, a lot of it painful, a lot of it gorgeous. This isn't out until February but keep your eyes open! This is a really inventive, moving debut collection that takes all sorts of chances and I think is going to (should) get some attention.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This is an exceptionally fine collection of linked short stories, amazingly, a debut. Several memoirs have appeared over the years in which adults recall their horrific childhoods (i.e., The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls), appalling in their detail of being raised in what borders on total neglect. A boy is on a balcony, locked out of his mother's motel room, with his dog, during a thunderstorm while his mother has an assignation inside. Two sisters are left for long periods in a compound in Th This is an exceptionally fine collection of linked short stories, amazingly, a debut. Several memoirs have appeared over the years in which adults recall their horrific childhoods (i.e., The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls), appalling in their detail of being raised in what borders on total neglect. A boy is on a balcony, locked out of his mother's motel room, with his dog, during a thunderstorm while his mother has an assignation inside. Two sisters are left for long periods in a compound in Thailand while their father tends to his job investigating the golden triangle drug production. The children in each story here are not always living in squalor, but in most cases, they are center stage while the events that shape their lives take place in the background. And an animal is usually catalyst in life lessons. As they mature into adulthood, how they use these lessons and apply the neglectful aspects of their parents is resolved in intriguing and original ways. There is a daisy chain of connection here, by the end, all these lives are interwoven.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    These stories can take their time to meander toward any kind of trajectory. But as I watch the characters make their questionable life choices (slowly), there's usually some clever sentence or funny exchange to keep me engaged. There are beautiful moments. In "Rainy Season", a 13-year-old girl forms an attachment to "some white tourist guy, punked out with spiky hair and wearing skinny black jeans and a Ramones T-shirt." He prepares to be a drug mule, and swallows a number of balloons filled with These stories can take their time to meander toward any kind of trajectory. But as I watch the characters make their questionable life choices (slowly), there's usually some clever sentence or funny exchange to keep me engaged. There are beautiful moments. In "Rainy Season", a 13-year-old girl forms an attachment to "some white tourist guy, punked out with spiky hair and wearing skinny black jeans and a Ramones T-shirt." He prepares to be a drug mule, and swallows a number of balloons filled with contraband:He paces the room, rubbing his stomach; he cracks a beer and pours it past cracked lips, and she imagines the balloons in his gut rising to float on the golden foam. The same girls are the protagonists in "Endangered Creatures", also set in Chiang Mai. But here, the trajectory is almost too clear. The detailed scenes in the orphanage are pretty harrowing though. There are occasional soap operatic moments, especially in the last few stories. Despite the hyperbole in some of the blurbs (Nickolas Butler, for instance), Parker's prose is nowhere near as consistently riveting as Lorrie Moore (or Deborah Levy, or Kathryn Davis, etc), and don't quite make up for the suds.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lorilin

    Good Lord, this is one strange and dark collection of stories. It reminds me a lot of Flannery O'Connor's stuff (like A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories): weird and horribly sad, but also sweet and redeeming in its own way. The stories are beautifully written and seamlessly woven together. Each story is its own vignette, but all of them relate to each other in some way (kind of like Olive Kitteridge). The world in these pages is so completely dismal and cruel. The people are walking aro Good Lord, this is one strange and dark collection of stories. It reminds me a lot of Flannery O'Connor's stuff (like A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories): weird and horribly sad, but also sweet and redeeming in its own way. The stories are beautifully written and seamlessly woven together. Each story is its own vignette, but all of them relate to each other in some way (kind of like Olive Kitteridge). The world in these pages is so completely dismal and cruel. The people are walking around in a haze, absolutely shell-shocked by the neglect and abuse they have experienced. There is a quiet goodness in these characters, but no one is strong or stable or rising above. No one is overcoming, and, certainly, no one is happy. The people simply exist because they aren't dead yet. Ironically, one of the most uplifting passages in the book comes at the end (ironic because I'm not sure it's very uplifting at all) when Hector tells Cecilia, "My pain is so huge...my body, my heart, everything tender and bruised... What choice do I have? I am here. I am alive. Life chose me. I have been broken open where I wanted to fall apart. Now everywhere I go, I seek out softness. The generosity, the places that offer comfort." I THINK that's our happy ending, but, yowza. It's still pretty dang bleak. Honestly, I finished this book and felt like I wanted to hide in my closet and cry for a week. And yet! I'll tell you, reading Beasts and Children was an experience. It made me connect and feel. I loved it, and I hated it--and then I kept reading more. Ultimately, I would say that this is definitely a book worth checking out, just be sure to hide the knives first.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tiffanie Austin

    Wow. Just wow. I love short stories. But this was more than that. I loved the loose connectivity of the people in these stories. It was life-like. Also, the writing style is like a feminine Hemingway. I really dug it. Excellent book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    Warning: "Beats and Children" a collection of connected short stories by Amy Parker, is brutal. BRUTAL. Each story is deeply disturbing and disquieting. Bad things happen to children (and animals) and the trauma that they experience in childhood follows them into their adult lives; the bad parenting and abuse they received pays forward. I wanted to take the children in these stories into my arms. Alas; I comforted myself that they are fictional. The cover features hummingbirds; there is nothing Warning: "Beats and Children" a collection of connected short stories by Amy Parker, is brutal. BRUTAL. Each story is deeply disturbing and disquieting. Bad things happen to children (and animals) and the trauma that they experience in childhood follows them into their adult lives; the bad parenting and abuse they received pays forward. I wanted to take the children in these stories into my arms. Alas; I comforted myself that they are fictional. The cover features hummingbirds; there is nothing light here. Yet, I am very glad I read these stories and was illuminated by them. As difficult as they are, they are beautifully rendered and the characters are vivid. Each story contains scenes of such suspense for characters in dire peril (physical and/or moral) that my heart-rate got an aerobic work-out reading this collection.There are six main characters; two sets of sisters, Carline and Cecilia who grow up in Texas, and Jill and Maizie who grow up in Thailand. Carline and Cecilia have a cousin, Danny, whose horrible mother will give you chills, and Jerry, who at six is abandoned by his mother, and raised by his father, an animal control officer who takes him on a "ride along", the ramifications of which reverberate through his life. I certainly will be looking for more from Amy Parker! This is her debut short-story collection and I greatly admire her unflinching storytelling. There are passages and dialogue that made me wince. Brava! Ms. Parker, because these passages and this dialogue is realistic. At points I can imagine her editor asking: "Are you SURE you want Jill to use that word? " Are you SURE you want Jerry to do that?" "Are you sure you want that to happen to that animal?" If that conversation occurred, I'm glad Parker prevailed. If it DIDN'T happen, I applaud her editors and publishers for the guts to let Parker's voice resonate. I highly recommend this collection with the caveat that it not for the faint of heart.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Peck

    This is a "collection" that feels as deliberately structured and satisfying as a novel. The perfectly titled "Beasts And Children" is the auspicious debut of American author Amy Parker, who has also, apparently, received lay ordination as a Zen monk (!). The stories revolve around a group of children - two sets of sisters, two boys - and their crumbling families. The books progresses and we follow the characters into adulthood and middle age, as their lives intersect, in Texas, Thailand, Iowa, a This is a "collection" that feels as deliberately structured and satisfying as a novel. The perfectly titled "Beasts And Children" is the auspicious debut of American author Amy Parker, who has also, apparently, received lay ordination as a Zen monk (!). The stories revolve around a group of children - two sets of sisters, two boys - and their crumbling families. The books progresses and we follow the characters into adulthood and middle age, as their lives intersect, in Texas, Thailand, Iowa, and California. And, as the name indicates, this is also a book about our relationship with the animal kingdom - how we project ourselves onto "beasts", and how they influence our lives. It's a harrowing read at times, with a fair variety of human and animal suffering. (I'll say right off - if you don't want to read a book where a child is forced to put a kitten to sleep, avoid this volume.) Parker has garnered comparisons to Flannery O'Connor, and, indeed, many of the stories careen toward tragic, grotesque climaxes and unorthodox salvation. But Parker's characters are more familiar and likable. The structure of this book incisively demonstrates the ways that our future fears, anxieties, and obsessions are molded during our late childhoods. The second, "adult" half of the book seems a tad less mysterious than the first, and slightly less distinctive than much other contemporary American literature. And a Colombian family, introduced late in the book, never quite becomes as immediate and real as its American characters. Putting these slight weaknesses aside, though, "Beasts And Children" packs a punch. It's funny, heartbreaking, and tough; it contains equally beautiful meditations on "Mr. Rogers" and elephant seals; and the final story, "Grace", lives up to its name.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Literary Mama

    Karna Converse, managing editor and senior editor, writes, "According to some blurbs, Amy Parker's debut collection of linked stories addresses 'the sometimes dark heart of the American family' and the 'catastrophe known as childhood.' I was intrigued, but braced myself for the kind of stories that reveal the worst side of human nature and make us suspicious of our neighbors. The ten stories in Beasts & Children aren't that dark, but they do draw attention to how a child views an event and how t Karna Converse, managing editor and senior editor, writes, "According to some blurbs, Amy Parker's debut collection of linked stories addresses 'the sometimes dark heart of the American family' and the 'catastrophe known as childhood.' I was intrigued, but braced myself for the kind of stories that reveal the worst side of human nature and make us suspicious of our neighbors. The ten stories in Beasts & Children aren't that dark, but they do draw attention to how a child views an event and how that event subsequently becomes a defining moment in his or her life. Parker introduces us to the children of three families—Cissy and Carline Bowman, Cousin Danny, Jill and Maizie Foster, and Jerry Ferrell—whose lives are altered by the choices their parents make, and who, ultimately, find their lives entwined with each other as adults. (Five of the stories take place during the main character's childhood, the other five in adulthood.) Throughout it all, Parker had me thinking about the defining moments in my own life and nodding my head in agreement with the character who believes 'that we all get stuck at certain points in our lives, that they come to define us and exert a kind of gravity.' Readers who like character-driven stories are sure to appreciate this collection." For more recommendations, see now reading: http://bit.ly/1UoA3a8

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

    If terribly dark and depressing and disturbing is your kind of fiction, then this is for you. If you cannot stand or tolerate violence or abuse or neglect of children, though, you may want to try another novel. This book was very misleading, seeing as the book (on the cover) says not only the title but "stories." I thought that meant that it was a short story book and I could skip back and forth, pick up and put down... NOPE. This is about a whole bunch of messed up children and families and how If terribly dark and depressing and disturbing is your kind of fiction, then this is for you. If you cannot stand or tolerate violence or abuse or neglect of children, though, you may want to try another novel. This book was very misleading, seeing as the book (on the cover) says not only the title but "stories." I thought that meant that it was a short story book and I could skip back and forth, pick up and put down... NOPE. This is about a whole bunch of messed up children and families and how they all intertwine together. Each family is broken up into "stories" and I then follow one for a section, another for a different section, etc. I was constantly cringing from the awkwardness and fuming for the majority of the book since the children are treated so terribly. Needless to say, I did not get very far and at times had to skip parts due to the extremely dark and detestable situations. I know that that was the point of the book, but it doesn't make it any easier to bear. The writing was great which is why I am not giving it a truly low score. The author has a beautiful flow and a wonderful way of switching between points of view. The subject matter was too much for me and this is why, instead of 4-5 stars, it's getting only three stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was well written, but I did not like it. It follows the lives of a few families, mainly through the children, then brings the characters together as adults. They all had troubled lives, with mostly terrible parents. A lot of alcoholism, neglect, capricious behavior, selfishness, etc marked their childhoods and shaped them in very different ways. Unfortunately, I didn't like them either as children (particularly Jill) nor as adults (especially Danny). I would say it's simply not my styl This book was well written, but I did not like it. It follows the lives of a few families, mainly through the children, then brings the characters together as adults. They all had troubled lives, with mostly terrible parents. A lot of alcoholism, neglect, capricious behavior, selfishness, etc marked their childhoods and shaped them in very different ways. Unfortunately, I didn't like them either as children (particularly Jill) nor as adults (especially Danny). I would say it's simply not my style of book - I expected there to be a point to all the negativity of their pasts, that it would inspire and change at least some of them into better adults. Instead they seemed trapped and unable to move beyond those wounded relationships. That's pretty realistic, but not what I want to read. The Guzman family didn't fit well with the story IMO, because it didn't follow the same format of showing the them as children, then as adults. Mrs Guzman did exert a strong force on the other characters' lives, but I didn't feel it fit very well with the overall theme. Also, most of the involvement of "beasts," was just plain depressing and was there to emphasize the crappiness of the human characters.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Revolinski

    Author Nickolas Butler mentioned it online so I picked up a copy (an excerpt from his glowing review is among many in the front of the book). Lives up to all the hype. It's a collection of 10 excellent 25-50 page short stories, and for the short-story averse out there, they intertwine and maintain characters (surely as much a "novel" then as The Imperfectionists, and a better read). Great command of characters, thoughtful insights about siblings and children's relationships to the quirks, failur Author Nickolas Butler mentioned it online so I picked up a copy (an excerpt from his glowing review is among many in the front of the book). Lives up to all the hype. It's a collection of 10 excellent 25-50 page short stories, and for the short-story averse out there, they intertwine and maintain characters (surely as much a "novel" then as The Imperfectionists, and a better read). Great command of characters, thoughtful insights about siblings and children's relationships to the quirks, failures, secrets, and mysteries of their imperfect parents. But all the characters, even the ones that may make you angry, are fleshed out with their complexities and treated fairly. Then there are the words themselves: at times poetic sentences I re-read a couple times, rolling them over in my mind or even aloud. At other times blunt and impactful and with potent images. Finally, on a personal level I enjoyed the Thailand connection and the elephant seals, places I've known. Great read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tamsen

    One of the things I really like about short story collections is the feeling of opportunity. Just because you disliked one story does not mean you won't find another story that changes you. This collection started with one family in the first story and another in the second. I thought the first story was okay and hated the second. The third went back to the family in the first, and although this made me nervous, I've seen short story collections where the author will return to some of the charac One of the things I really like about short story collections is the feeling of opportunity. Just because you disliked one story does not mean you won't find another story that changes you. This collection started with one family in the first story and another in the second. I thought the first story was okay and hated the second. The third went back to the family in the first, and although this made me nervous, I've seen short story collections where the author will return to some of the characters. The fourth went back to the second family though, and they continued to flip flop in this manner until I pretty much skimmed the rest of Beasts and Children.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Cosin

    Exquisitely written linked stories, but the cruelty toward children and others in several of the stories is very hard to take. The book did not leave me feeling hopeless - somehow we all muddle through, but it was a tough read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This book is so hard to rate and review. It was difficult to read. It was beautiful and truthful. The plot lines weren't strong, and the characters were barely likable. But the characters were human, detailed, and had real, beating hearts. The descriptions were visceral and employed all five senses, particularly smell which was a new experience for me. I didn't love this book, but I didn't want to stop reading it. I did want to finish it, but it didn't grab me and refuse to let go either.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Theodore McCombs

    In each of these linked short stories, Parker cracks open the mythologies we create around children--innocence, discipline, joys, choice, failures--alongside a story about the violent, misguided, or desperate ways we relate to animals. The result is a series of diptychs thrilling in themselves, but add in Parker's astonishing lyricism and the book is just sublime.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Beastly. Some of the most intense, visceral stories I've ever read--this was not a pleasurable book, but that's the point. This line, though: "If it weren't for the creeping snail of fear currently gnawing her mental cabbage, she'd actually doze off."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brad Harju

    Loved this book with the stories that were mostly connected about 3 different families. I will read it again sometime.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    If neglect and, forced euthanasia of kittens, and appalling parenting does it for you... this is your book. Wow, the publishing industry must be really hard up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Curley

    Really more of a 3.5 but I rounded up. The stories are pretty dark, but love how they intertwine.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Manzi

    Stories were pretty dark.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Beasts and Children by Amy Parker is a very highly recommended heart-breaking short story collection. All the stories in this collection are interconnected, with characters reappearing and their stories continuing from one story to the next, and following these characters from childhood to adulthood. All of the stories also feature animals. Read together these stories are complementary; the recurring characters of the stories create the feeling of a novel since all the stories are interrelated. Th Beasts and Children by Amy Parker is a very highly recommended heart-breaking short story collection. All the stories in this collection are interconnected, with characters reappearing and their stories continuing from one story to the next, and following these characters from childhood to adulthood. All of the stories also feature animals. Read together these stories are complementary; the recurring characters of the stories create the feeling of a novel since all the stories are interrelated. The writing is very good, descriptive and haunting, but the stories can be dark and depressing, with children and animals firmly at the mercy of selfish, obstinate, egocentric adults who are, quite frankly, neglecting them through their disregard, inattention, and carelessness. There are a couple times when I almost refused to continue reading. For those with a tender heart toward children and animals, this one might be too difficult to read to the end. In the end, I was glad I finished this collection, but, oh my, there were some tears and struggles to get there. Table of Contents: The White Elephant: It's 1967 and the last year sisters Cissy and Carline Bowman have an unbroken family. Rainy Season: Jill Foster and Maizie, her little sister, are the daughters of diplomats in Chiang Mai. Disaster results occur when Jill decides to leave the compound one night and Maizie follows. The Balcony: Danny's mother pulls him out of school and they hit the road with his dog Orla. She's following a man she's obsessed with. Endangered Creatures: Jill and Maizie, who are in trouble with their father over their adventure, visit a Thai orphanage with a woman and her daughter. Beasts and Children: Jerry's father tries to teach him to be tough after his mother leaves them. (This story is almost too much to bear.) Catastrophic Molt: Cissy and Carline reflect on the year their mother was dying from cancer. The Corpse Diver: Jill and Jerry are married and struggling with a needy woman who lives nearby. "When Piper was born, Jill got tired and Jerry got religion." Sunfish: Daniel (Danny; Cissy and Carline's cousin) has fallen in love with Maizie. A Neighborly Day for a Beauty: Maizie is deciding whether she wants to continue with her pregnancy. Grace: Carline's life may be changing when she meets a single father. Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Parker

    Beasts and Children is a collection of intertwined short stories about three different American families: Texans, immigrants, and expats, parents, children, lovers, animals both wild and domesticated, and how, despite best intentions, we love imperfectly and damage those we are charged with caring for. These stories are real, raw, they will make you laugh and cry, and touch the tender spots on your own heart. Parker is especially good at calling forth the experience of what it is like to be a ch Beasts and Children is a collection of intertwined short stories about three different American families: Texans, immigrants, and expats, parents, children, lovers, animals both wild and domesticated, and how, despite best intentions, we love imperfectly and damage those we are charged with caring for. These stories are real, raw, they will make you laugh and cry, and touch the tender spots on your own heart. Parker is especially good at calling forth the experience of what it is like to be a child, having your own needs, fears, life of the mind, and will, but dependent on adults who often have their own struggles and wounds and fail them in myriad ways both small and large. And I will add that I especially loved her portrayal of Jill as a mother, it rings so true and is refreshingly honest about the internal experience of motherhood. One aspect of this book that I appreciate is Amy Parker's prose. She clearly loves language and plays with words and cadence. The book is a pleasure to read. Additionally, I enjoyed the way the reader is required to do some work. These are stories to be lingered on, mulled over, and they will stay with you after you finish them. The animals in the stories are rich metaphors, familiars, devices for illuminating the people who interact with them. It is gripping, but not in a pulpy page-turner way -- this is lyrical book, not a mindless read. And it is also not a stuck-up, smug book in which hipster characters follow a clean narrative arc through a dilemma and emerge triumphant on the other side, or battle through worn-out narrative tropes and arrive at the end with everything tied up in a neat package. I heartily encourage you to buy this book, or ask your local public library to obtain a copy. If you are in a book group, it would be an awesome selection to read and discuss.

  24. 5 out of 5

    deep

    PW Starred: The monkeys, seals, elephants, pangolins, sunfish, and domestic pets of Parker's wonderful collection of linked stories offer sublime metaphors and splendid foils for the floundering adults, as prone to moments of astonishing cruelty as the beasts are to sudden vengeance. Characters include sisters Carline and Cissy Bowman, whose family spends a fortune to ransom the father out of Thailand in "The White Elephant"; another pair of sisters, Jill and Maizie, are daughters of diplomats s PW Starred: The monkeys, seals, elephants, pangolins, sunfish, and domestic pets of Parker's wonderful collection of linked stories offer sublime metaphors and splendid foils for the floundering adults, as prone to moments of astonishing cruelty as the beasts are to sudden vengeance. Characters include sisters Carline and Cissy Bowman, whose family spends a fortune to ransom the father out of Thailand in "The White Elephant"; another pair of sisters, Jill and Maizie, are daughters of diplomats stationed in Ching Mai, and who venture out of their compound in "Rainy Season." Other stories involve a road trip to catch a lover ("The Balcony"); Jill and Maizie visiting a Thai orphanage ("Endangered Creatures"), and Carline and Cissy dealing with memories of their mother's bout with cancer ("Catastrophic Molt"). More than the dissatisfied and guilty adults, Parker's sympathies lie with the children, who with preternatural calm and piercing devotion survive early formative ruptures that will haunt them. Parker's sentences are clear, polished, finely-faceted gems, the images incandescent and precise, the tone balanced between the hypnotic and the absurd. Drawing out the implacable connections between beauty and danger, between love and pain, each individual story delivers a final punch of surprise both unpremeditated and yet perfect, "whole and alive in the way that only children and animals seem to be." It's to Parker's credit that the collection feels as complete as a novel, a journey transporting readers from the exotic to the familiar, leaving them blinking, dry-mouthed, and changed. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Feb.)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karna Converse

    I was intrigued by the blurbs which described Amy Parker's debut collection of linked stories as a book that addresses "the sometimes dark heart of the American family" and the "catastrophe known as childhood," so braced myself for stories that reveal the worst side of human nature and cause us to look suspiciously toward our neighbors. The ten stories in Beasts & Children aren't that dark, but they do draw attention to how a child views an event and how that event subsequently becomes a definin I was intrigued by the blurbs which described Amy Parker's debut collection of linked stories as a book that addresses "the sometimes dark heart of the American family" and the "catastrophe known as childhood," so braced myself for stories that reveal the worst side of human nature and cause us to look suspiciously toward our neighbors. The ten stories in Beasts & Children aren't that dark, but they do draw attention to how a child views an event and how that event subsequently becomes a defining moment in his or her life. Parker introduces us to the children of three families--Cissy and Carline Bowman, Cousin Danny, Jill and Maizie Foster, and Jerry Ferrell—whose lives are altered by the choices their parents make, and who, ultimately, find their lives entwined with each other as adults. (Five of the stories take place during the main character's childhood, the other five in adulthood.) Throughout it all, Parker had me thinking about the defining moments in my own life and nodding my head in agreement with the character who believes "that we all get stuck at certain points in our lives, that they come to define us and exert a kind of gravity." Readers who like character-driven stories are sure to appreciate this collection.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jae Park

    I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways, thank you! This book is the stories of several different families, starting when they were children. I had no clue at first how the stories even related to each other, but then the families started to interconnect and it became clear. Even before the clarity, I found the separate childhoods entirely fascinating to read. The adventures of the kids and sometimes odd or unsettling behavior of the adults in their lives were engrossing a I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways, thank you! This book is the stories of several different families, starting when they were children. I had no clue at first how the stories even related to each other, but then the families started to interconnect and it became clear. Even before the clarity, I found the separate childhoods entirely fascinating to read. The adventures of the kids and sometimes odd or unsettling behavior of the adults in their lives were engrossing and riveting. This book is not all sunshine and roses, it tells a tale of a cross section of happiness and dysfunction in the families and how seemingly random decisions can greatly affect lives. I found "Beasts And Children" to be amazingly detailed and fascinating. Just an all around great read that kept me thinking. ***Slight Spoiler alert : So glad the elephant seal wasn't dead!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is a wonderfully written book. The language and visionary descriptions of the people and settings are unique and riveting. It's a fast-paced story telling style that lets the reader kind of just sit and listen, there's not enough time to really think. There are a multitude of different characters of children who are in some way or another, being left behind metaphorically and physically by the people that are supposed to love and nurture them. What happens to these children whose parents le This is a wonderfully written book. The language and visionary descriptions of the people and settings are unique and riveting. It's a fast-paced story telling style that lets the reader kind of just sit and listen, there's not enough time to really think. There are a multitude of different characters of children who are in some way or another, being left behind metaphorically and physically by the people that are supposed to love and nurture them. What happens to these children whose parents let them down? Who fail to teach them the lessons they will need as adults? And what happens when they become parents themselves? This is the story of children and the beasts in life that can change their lives without them fully understanding why or how. It's full of sad stories and observations of helpless children but their hope that love in a given, that's its unconditional, makes this story worth reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

    One of the best collections I've read. And it's a debut which is wonderful to look forward to other works by Parker but I can't go into a backlist and read anything else she wrote. Stunning prose. Some of the best I've ever read. And for those who don't like short stories, take a chance on this collection. These linked stories follow two families for the majority of the book and a third comes in a little later. But when you (as a reader) see how they are all connected it knocks the wind out of yo One of the best collections I've read. And it's a debut which is wonderful to look forward to other works by Parker but I can't go into a backlist and read anything else she wrote. Stunning prose. Some of the best I've ever read. And for those who don't like short stories, take a chance on this collection. These linked stories follow two families for the majority of the book and a third comes in a little later. But when you (as a reader) see how they are all connected it knocks the wind out of you. Some of the stories are disturbing and dark. But such is life. And while the brutally honest darkness makes you want to look away, Parker adds in very human and heartfelt emotion that is also part of life. I cringed, I felt anxious and couldn't put the book down. I did choke up and cry a bit at parts. I can go on for days. A favorite this year!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan Stinchcomb

    A spectacular collection. If you are a fan of interlinked short stories, this book is for you. I have been anxious to read more Amy Parker ever since she published the brilliant story, "Kingdom by the Sea," in Interfictions. These stories, many of which are so lengthy and well developed that they feel like novel chapters, paint a portrait of three different families. Children and animals are rendered with an honesty and complete lack of sentimentality that will have you holding your breath. Espe A spectacular collection. If you are a fan of interlinked short stories, this book is for you. I have been anxious to read more Amy Parker ever since she published the brilliant story, "Kingdom by the Sea," in Interfictions. These stories, many of which are so lengthy and well developed that they feel like novel chapters, paint a portrait of three different families. Children and animals are rendered with an honesty and complete lack of sentimentality that will have you holding your breath. Especially notable are the relationships between sisters, as well as those between mothers and daughters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Lord, I was not expecting *that* from this book. This really packs a punch in unpredictable ways. I'm not even sure what to do with myself after reading a few of these surprisingly dark stories. Parker's characters are deep. They are raw and emotional and have lots of problems. They have secrets. Most importantly, her characters are very believable. She captures childhood innocence and vulnerability perfectly. This was an excellent short story collection. I can't think of one outlier story in th Lord, I was not expecting *that* from this book. This really packs a punch in unpredictable ways. I'm not even sure what to do with myself after reading a few of these surprisingly dark stories. Parker's characters are deep. They are raw and emotional and have lots of problems. They have secrets. Most importantly, her characters are very believable. She captures childhood innocence and vulnerability perfectly. This was an excellent short story collection. I can't think of one outlier story in the bunch. I love that Parker wove the characters from her stories together--the stories can be read separately, but it adds another few layers of depth if read together.

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