Thank you to Satabdi for this review:
I jumped at the chance to read this book because it was set in India–my home country. I was so happy to see that much of the action takes place at Palolem beach, Goa, one of my favorite beaches.
Essentially, this is a story of love, loss, and longing. “ManJan” travels the world with a feisty “LadyJan,” and they forge many friendships on the way. In a bizarre twist of fate, ManJan rediscovers each of these friendships as he revisits all the places he had gone with LadyJan. Only this time, he is looking for her and hoping that fate throws them together again.
I’m not sure how to go about describing the book because I’ve never read something like this before. The author writes in a most unconventional manner. He finds humor in the tiniest details, such as a cockroach constantly turning to its right, banging its head on the “same bit of boat” and wondering why it can’t escape.
At first, it seemed to me that the story was just absurd. But then it proceeded to become a most tender and endearing tale about friendship, love, and heartbreak. The pace is leisurely, and this may be a bit of a challenge if you’re looking for something to happen quickly. In the latter half of the book, you begin to see the connections between the seemingly isolated events happening in each chapter.
I loved the fact that there’s some commentary on homosexuality quietly tucked into the story.
Each chapter features a different creature. You read about a cow’s predilection to look at sunsets, crabs rolling sand balls (because that’s just what they do!), cockroaches taking wrong turns and getting confused, quails losing their precious eggs, and so on. The stories of the creatures have a sort of parallel to the happenings in the chapter.
The passion of youth (Shakey) and the fatigue of old age (Manjan) is well-contrasted. Manjan’s journey from “a poxy vest” to “a mustache” forms the basis of the story.
I particularly enjoyed the hilarious portrayal of things that are uniquely Indian, such as bathing in the filthy Ganges river, the holy status of the cow (until it is too old to be maintained), the “spiritual” aura of Goa’s beaches, and adults bathing in the ocean fully clothed.
We Are Animals is a sparkling debut by Tim Ewins laced with wit and humor and features some marvelous storytelling!