“The only way to influence another’s fate is by destroying them. It’s the only thing that can be done permanently and by an action within your control. To try to protect someone is to try to intervene in the actions of the world against them but that’s something you can’t face alone or entirely because if fate has bullets for them you can only take one.”
This was a really interesting book! I was excited to read it ever since I started following Rae on Instagram. She seems like such a cool lady, with her beautiful horse and cow rustling and reading Faulkner in woods. Her debut novel was very much what I was hoping it would be and, despite some flaws, turned out to be a solid 3.5 star read! I would warn you, though, that this novel is extremely violent, not just to people (cause who cares about them?), but also to animals, so keep that in mind before picking it up.
What made me anticipate the release of Rough Animals even more, was the buzz that started to surround it, heralding Rae as a new-age Cormac McCarthy protege. I love some gritty McCarthy action and I was extremely intrigued by how her style would compare to his.
I was not disappointed! Rae delivers a dark, thrilling, existential tale of twins living in the desolate and deserted town of Box Elder, Utah. They clearly have secrets and a haunted past, and are struggling to just keep their farm afloat, when a savage young girl involved in the area’s drug cartel kills most of their cattle for no reason. What follows is a twisting, suspenseful, bloody journey to get back what was stolen from them, leading the brother on an ever increasingly violent path.
This story was everything I would want on paper. It sounded amazing and, for the most part, it was. The plot was rich, the writing was lush and rendered the harsh settings even more real. The characters were realistic and hardened, and the style, while very reminiscent of McCarthy, was something all Rae’s own. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and I sped through it pretty quickly.
That being said, there were a few things that detracted from my rating a little bit. I loved the concept of this book, but the execution was pretty glaringly done by an amateur writer. Now, that is not to say that Rae is a bad writer – far from it! There are some lines in this book that are gorgeous and extremely intelligent writing. What I mean by that is some things were not handled as well as I imagine they would be by a more seasoned author.
The beautiful imagery and lyrical descriptions were great, but often overused throughout the story. No book needs metaphors and similes crowding every paragraph. The pacing of the plot was a little bit off, as well. The story started right in with some great action, but lagged quite a bit in the middle, when two of the main characters are stuck in the desert. It also seemed that, while the plot was jam-pack full of action, it was kind of just moving from one scene to the next without a real cohesive net. Instead of integrating the action scenes with more of the reflective scenes and creating a fluid story, it read more like boom! action scene, boom! action scene, pause to think about the past, boom! action scene, etc. etc. The intention was fantastic, but it was just a little sloppy. The main plot twist, the thing that is always lurking around the edges of the narrative, was quite obvious from the beginning and did not really pack the punch that I think it was intended to. The contemplative scenes regarding this twits were a tad heavy-handed for me. And, the ending was wrapped up just a little too quickly a little too “edgy.”
Despite these forgivable issues, I loved reading this book! I am so happy I got to support Rae and her craft, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. Truly a gifted author emerging here, so check her out!