It’s no secret that America, like most other countries, has a huge income disparity, and this creates a strata of class structures. Rather than entertain political and social philosophies, I want to share a wonderful book I read recently, which in part illustrates the gap between the rich and the working poor. The God of Animals (2007) by Aryn Kyle is a novel about much, much more, but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet tonight because a senior friend of mine just got his meager Social Security income cut by approximately one-quarter. It rankles me that those of us with the least seem to get hit the worst with taxes and/or cuts in pay or services. Anyone who does or has lived close to the bone knows that every dollar counts. Kyle’s novel tackles similar issues when describing the hard-scrabble life of a dysfunctional family on a fictional ranch in Western Colorado.
The narrator’s voice is that of a eleven to twelve-year-old girl. Through her eyes, we see her father struggle to make his ranch a success by catering to the well-heeled horsy crowd. While he doggedly pursues his dreams, he often ignores the daughter and her needs. It’s painful to witness the father’s manipulations and the daughter’s obedience to his sometimes unrealistic demands. At times I found myself questioning the validity of the narrator’s story, but this is a minor criticism and further strengthens the belief that a “tween” tells the tale.
Kyle intertwines the lives of disparate characters, including a dead girl and a teacher, with such a degree of skill it was difficult for me to put the book aside until I finished it. Rich in themes, the book gives readers much to ponder, but the lessons regarding success and trying to climb out of poverty are especially poignant. We don’t have to live on ranches to recognize the affects of grinding poverty and lower social class.