The Best of Animals (Hardcover)

By Lauren Grodstein

Persea Books, 9780892552818, 224pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2002



The protagonists of the ten stories in this charming, highly affecting collection may be a familiar bunch -- young, bright, literate -- but the way in which their lives are documented is anything but typical. With unusual compassion and nimble prose, Lauren Grodstein gives us some of the most appealing characters in recent memory, each one consumed by conflicting feelings of passion and inertia, as well as a vague suspicion that life holds some yet-to-be-delivered punch line, which will shed light on it all.

Grodstein has the striking capacity to locate instances of true human vulnerability in her writing, and to portray the pathos, humor, and surprising moments of hope therein. In "Lonely Planet, " an ad exec halfheartedly consoles and then desperately fondles her drunken best friend after a breakup; in "Family Vacation, " etiquette breaks down among relatives stuck in an immobilized monorail at Disney World; and, in "Hey, Beautiful, " a college senior can't take the heat in that epicenter of self-loathing and humiliation -- the singles bar. Throughout The Best of Animals, Grodstein gives us teens and twentysomethings frozen in the headlights of oncoming adulthood. This first collection, full of implicit insight, marks the emergence of a fresh literary voice.