your town had a dark, secret rite-of-passage for all adolescents. Could
you keep your promise to refuse to participate? For Lumen, things
became complicated. Years later, living in another place and using
another name, she tells us what she remembers.
For a long time, when I was a girl, I was a very good girl.—When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord (Hachette Book Group / Mulholland Books, 2015, p. 1)
You should have known me then. You would have liked me. Shy, undergrown, good in school, eager to please. At the diner table, especially when my father and I went visiting, I didn't eat before others, and I sometimes went without salt because I was too timid to ask anyone to pass it. . . .
I did all my homework. I ate celery sticks as a snack. I went to bed early and knew that the shrieking outside my window had nothing to do with me at all.
- Setting: rural middle America, modern times
- Circumstances: Years after Lumen has moved away from home, she lives a conventional life, overprotecting her son, just like she's supposed to. But memories of her youth bubble up, and she wonders how the teen she was became the unremarkable wife and mother she is now.
- Characters: Lumen/Ann (young & old); people from her childhood: father, friends, neighbors; people from now: husband, son, friends
- Genre: coming-of-age with Gothic and thriller elements
- Themes: secrets, family, social pressures, escaping one's past, self-discovery, marriage, love
- Words & thoughts from reviews: dark, fascinating, emotional, Gothic, different, a story of how childhood experiences shape adult perceptions, well written, couldn't stop reading
- My thoughts: I haven't read more than a few pages, but I'm intrigued by both Lumen's past and her present.