cover image Animal


Lisa Taddeo. Avid Reader, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-982122-12-6

In Taddeo’s underwhelming debut novel (after the nonfiction narrative Three Women), a re-traumatized woman faces her painful past. Joan, 37, leaves New York City for Los Angeles after her boss, Vic, with whom she had been having an affair, shoots himself in front of her at a restaurant. Witnessing Vic’s death brings back memories for Joan, who lost her parents to a gruesome act of violence when she was 10, which left her orphaned and with a sizable inheritance. Joan believes a young woman named Alice, a yoga teacher in L.A., whom she’d never met, holds the key to understanding the night of her parents’ death, and the reason is initially withheld from the reader as well as Alice, after the two women form a superficial intimacy revolving around men and how terrible they are. Unfortunately, Alice suffers from thin characterization that renders her little more than a device for Joan’s development. And though the men are certainly horrible, especially the ones in Joan’s life—including her dead father—Taddeo misses an opportunity for a more critical exploration of female rage, relying instead on the shock value of the third act’s violent scenes. Recent novels such as A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers have treated similar themes with more imagination and depth. Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners. (June)