×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

A Loving, Faithful Animal
     

A Loving, Faithful Animal

by Josephine Rowe
 

See All Formats & Editions

A Loving, Faithful Animal lured me in with astonishing, poetic prose... But the true thrill of the novel is the carousel of haunting characters Josephine Rowe creates with unbelievable precision. An unflinching look at the ways we fail the people we love, at the cruelty of family, its toxicity, and beauty.” —Stephanie Danler, New York

Overview

A Loving, Faithful Animal lured me in with astonishing, poetic prose... But the true thrill of the novel is the carousel of haunting characters Josephine Rowe creates with unbelievable precision. An unflinching look at the ways we fail the people we love, at the cruelty of family, its toxicity, and beauty.” —Stephanie Danler, New York Times bestselling author of Sweetbitter

It is New Year’s Eve 1990, in a small town in southeast Australia. Ru’s father, Jack, one of thousands of Australians once conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War, has disappeared. This time Ru thinks he might be gone for good. As rumors spread of a huge black cat stalking the landscape beyond their door, the rest of the family is barely holding on. Ru’s sister, Lani, is throwing herself into sex, drugs, and dangerous company. Their mother, Evelyn, is escaping into memories of a more vibrant youth. And meanwhile there is Les, Jack’s inscrutable brother, who seems to move through their lives like a ghost, earning both trust and suspicion.

A Loving, Faithful Animal is an incandescent portrait of one family searching for what may yet be redeemable from the ruins of war. Tender, brutal, and heart-stopping in its beauty, this novel marks the arrival in the United States of Josephine Rowe, the winner of the 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Prize and one of Australia’s most extraordinary young writers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/10/2017
Opening on New Year’s Eve in 1990, Rowe’s striking debut novel uses a struggling Australian family to explore the ways love and savagery overlap. Vietnam vet Jack Burroughs is an abusive husband who carries the war inside him like a “cancerlike sickness, busy at some cellular level” and disappears for weeks, even months, at a time. When his beloved dog is torn to pieces by a wild panther, he leaves again. Sensing that he’s now gone permanently, Jack’s wife, Evelyn, and their daughters grapple with his absence and their own unfulfilled longings. Twelve-year-old Ru cherishes Jack’s abandoned tobacco like a talisman that will bring him back, while her older sister, Lani, consoles herself with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Evelyn swings from rage at Lani’s defiance to nostalgia for a past in which she too was free and alluring. Jack’s half-brother, Les, looks sinister thanks to the scars of the index fingers he amputated decades before, ostensibly to avoid fighting in Vietnam, yet he offers a steady, tender presence. Rowe links the novel’s six sections through common characters and imagery—most notably the animal motifs woven throughout—rather than a single dramatic plotline. Balancing poetic language with unsentimental observation, she brings a fierce, inventive vision to her themes of family, legacy, and survival. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for A LOVING, FAITHFUL ANIMAL

"A heartbreaking and memorable hero. . . . A rich, kaleidoscopic depiction of inherited trauma in stunning prose."
Kirkus Reviews

"Rowe’s richly interiorized characterizations and muscular prose, of the condensed and economic variety that manages to say a lot with a little, herald her exciting U.S. entrée." —Booklist

“A subtle and haunting meditation on childhood, escape, the bonds and the limits of family, and the long reach of trauma. Rowe is a serious talent, and her debut novel is both gorgeous and stunning.”
—Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

A Loving, Faithful Animal lured me in with astonishing, poetic prose, and a glimpse of an Australia I don’t always see in fiction. But the true thrill of the novel is the carousel of haunting characters Josephine Rowe creates with unbelievable precision. An unflinching look at the ways we fail the people we love, at the cruelty of family, its toxicity, and beauty. The book is a deep, multi-faceted portrait of the inheritance of damage, one that left me aching and inspired.”
—Stephanie Danler, New York Times bestselling author of Sweetbitter

"Josephine Rowe writes like someone who, having been quiet a long time, has thought carefully and viciously about what must be said. In this flinty debut, Rowe fashions a string of refractory surfaces—the family members of a veteran—to remind us just how far, into love and time, the atrocity of war will reach."
—Kathleen Alcott, author of Infinite Home

"A slim novel packed with delicious prose, easy to lose yourself in and hard to leave behind."
—Amelia Gray, author of Gutshot

“Rowe’s language is trance-inducing. Do right by yourself, nest down and prepare to be swept away by these characters, their respective dilapidations, in this mesmerizing, incandescent novel. Masterful.”
—Brendan Jones, author of The Alaskan Laundry

“Deft, lyrical and deeply moving.”
—Wayne Macauley, author of The Cook

“A compelling and singular emotional experience … Haunting … Rowe makes it clear from the first paragraph of this clenched, resolute study of family damage that sentiment has no place here. She will reveal something harder and truer.”
—Kate Holden, Australian Book Review

“Rowe's much-anticipated debut novel dives into the heart of a family attempting to salvage themselves from the scars of the past. Brutal and tender, this is a dark domestic drama battling with the wreckage of the Vietnam War.”
—Robert Bound, Monocle magazine

"A beautifully rendered and heart-wrenchingly raw novel that affirms navigating this life is damn hard, but you must keep loving your way through it."

—Star Lowe, Star Line Books (Chattanooga, TN)

"A Loving, Faithful Animal is devastating and beautiful. Made up exclusively of perfect sentences, Rowe's novel expertly explores love, trauma, and their intersections."

—Katie Eelman, Papercuts JP (Boston)

"This is an absolutely gorgeous novel, and Josephine Rowe's voice comes through so strongly even as she maneuvers between characters and points of view. The writing feels fresh, precise, and carefully crafted, and urgent, with a beautifully hazy writing style that deftly maneuvers between the members of this family, creating a slim, profound tale of the bonds that bring us together, or in the case of this book, the ones that break us apart."

—Jacob Rogers, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

"A Loving Faithful Animal is a heartbreaking look at a family both reaching for and pushing away until they exhaust their capacity to return to each other. Ru is a self-contained child, anxious but tough, whose hope for a family devoid of dramatics is always disappointed. Evelyn, her mother, turned away from conventional family life to marry the dangerous and charming Jack, a Viet Nam veteran who alternates between abuse and abandonment. Lani, Ru’s oldest sister, is herself caught up in wildly self-destructive behavior. Watching from the edges is Les, Jack’s brother, whose shadowy role in this family is a source of mistrust. The characters, haunted by regret and damaged by those they love, are allowed to tell their own stories in language that is sensual, sharp, and as devastating as a blow to the heart. Josephine Rowe is highly acclaimed in her native Australia, and this first novel to be published in the United States is a fine introduction to her lean and poetic writing."

—Cindy Pauldine, The River's End Bookstore

"It's our instinct for survival—the most universal, the most animal part of each of us—that makes us capable of both surprising cruelty and gut-splitting love. From where, exactly, do those instincts spring? A Loving, Faithful Animal is a novel about war and about peace, about violence and tenderness, about loyalty and betrayal, and about what we learn and what we're born knowing, which is to say that it's a novel about family. What a fine novel it is."

—Sam Kaas, Third Place Books

"This is an absolutely gorgeous novel, and Josephine Rowe's voice comes through so strongly even as she maneuvers between characters and points of view. The writing feels fresh, precise, and carefully crafted, and urgent, with a beautifully hazy writing style that deftly maneuvers between the members of this family, creating a slim, profound tale of the bonds that bring us together, or in the case of this book, the ones that break us apart."

—Iscah Warner, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

Praise for Josephine Rowe

Winner of the 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Prize

“Rowe’s stories are potent machines of emotion, miraculous for the human vastness they sound by the sparest and surest of means.”
—Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

“Spectacular . . . when I read her stories of drifting, of heartbreak and aftermath and travel and displacement, it seems to me that ‘where is home?’ is the underlying question. For some of us, there’s no clear answer to that question. In our work, we can only continue to ask, and, in Rowe’s work, the asking is both graceful and profound.”
—Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

Kirkus Reviews
2017-06-20
Rowe's debut novel examines the splintering of a family in rural Australia.The novel begins on New Year's Eve 1990. Evelyn and Jack have two daughters: Lani and Ruby, known as Ru. Jack's brother, the girls' Uncle Tetch, has started "turning up in the garage" to clean it up and try to fix things. It is quickly clear, however, that there is much that is broken. Jack, a Vietnam veteran, lives in a world torn open by the horrors of war. His mind "is a ghost trap. It's all he can do to open his mouth without letting them all howl out." Jack's trauma becomes his family's first major tragedy; he abuses Ev until he leaves one day, probably for good. The chapters each follow a different character with a different sadness in his or her past. This roving narration provides hauntingly intimate accounts, and the poetic style throughout makes each voice compelling and distinct. And yet, the same current of tragedy courses through all of them, leading an adult Ru to wonder, "Are all family scripts so interchangeable?" Ru's two chapters, bookending the novel, are told in an urgent second person so that, in effect, she is absent from her own story. Eclipsed by those she cannot help but still love, Ru is also the novel's true protagonist, a heartbreaking and memorable hero. The readers are made to empathize fully with her as, in the second person, she is also us: "You wonder when your real life will start," she tells us. "You wonder what good all your being good has amounted to." A rich, kaleidoscopic depiction of inherited trauma in stunning prose.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781936787579
Publisher:
Catapult
Publication date:
09/12/2017
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Lani was born shaking into Evelyn’s arms in the middle of that decade, and would not stop shaking until the beginning of the ’80s. Evelyn tries to remember this shaking whenever she runs in with the rangy, foul-mouthed creature who haunts the room at the end of the hallway, shut in there with the throb of something dreary. Tries to remember the trembling of the little spine felt through terry-towelling jumpersuits, the vulnerable blossom mouth, as she stares at the poster tacked up and torn at the corner nearest the doorknob. The band members look like they’re all dying of the same disease.

Behind the poster, Lani’s door is all splinters and strips of packing tape. She knocks and waits before trying the handle, knowing it’ll be locked whether her oldest daughter is in there or not. No energy for a row this afternoon; she just follows the routine disarmament the two of them have fallen into over the last few years. These shitty locks; they’re mostly cosmetic anyway. Won’t really keep anyone out, will just slow them down long enough so that whoever’s on the other side has time to get their pants up.

She worries at the snib with a butterknife, and Lani’s door swings open on an empty room, gauzy curtains drawn back to reveal the flyscreen with its escape hatch sliced into one corner. Gone then. Today and forever. Even when she comes back this afternoon, or tonight—tomorrow morning; who knows?—Evelyn will find no way of reaching her, no way of getting her to listen. Through threats or through fists, neither works now. Lately she’s astonished herself with her own ferocity, how it closes over her, suffocates reason. How the marks on her daughter’s body have begun to mirror her own. Lani that morning, reaching for a high spot with the paint scraper, and her pyjama top hiking up to show a familiar purpling at the hip, door-handle height. Law of Conservation. Absorption and emission. Ev tries to remember what she learnt in fifth-form science. How it all has to go somewhere. How light becomes heat and heat becomes—what?

Meet the Author

Josephine Rowe was born in 1984 in Rockhampton, Australia, and grew up in Melbourne. In the United States her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Iowa Review, The Paris Review Daily, and other publications. She holds fellowships from the Wallace Stegner Program in fiction at Stanford University, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, the Omi International Arts Center, and Yaddo. In 2016, her fiction won the Elizabeth Jolley Prize in Australia. She currently lives in Tasmania.