"I found myself considering those rare things only books can do, feats outside the purview of film or fine art . . . Gorgeous." Samantha Hunt, The New York Times Book ReviewIt 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.
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.
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 tonighttomorrow 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 becomeswhat?