cover image A Loving, Faithful Animal

A Loving, Faithful Animal

Josephine Rowe. Catapult (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-936787-57-9

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.)