Work Is a Four-Letter Word: I review “The Animators”

at First Things:

It may be gauche to say that novels should be moral tales; but nothing can compete with morality for dramatic tension and structure. Kayla Rae Whitaker’s debut novel, The Animators, is a raw and propulsive book . . . right up until its fizzly, self-satisfied ending.

The Animators centers on the friendship of two hot-mess women. Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses meet in art school. Mel walks around in a swirling Pigpen cloud of sleaze and chaos; Sharon’s preferred defense mechanism is tight-lipped competence. They’re promiscuous, disastrous, hungry, and driven by fear of those hungers. Women who do life like it’s a tray full of Jell-O shots: It doesn’t matter if what you’re gulping is good, as long as it takes you out of yourself for a night. Their need for each other is visceral. Toward the book’s end, Sharon realizes, “From age eighteen on, I had a partner, a kindred spirit. I had a friend.” Four short words in which an entire life is sheltered.

more. Due to miscommunication, I think, the last line of this was cut! It should be something like, “The ending may leave you asking, instead, whether the unrepented life can be worth reading.”


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