Top Shelf: Lisa's Choice


by Francesca Cardamone

It felt like the literary world exploded when Three Women by Lisa Taddeo was published. I couldn’t walk around Brooklyn without seeing a copy of it; at the park, at a cafe, on the train, a lonely girl sitting at the bar drinking under candlelight reading it. It was one of those books that you were in on, or you weren’t. For today, I’m not going to be talking about Three Women because its time has come, and it has gone. Animal by Lisa Taddeo is the main focus here. Animal was published in September of 2021 but it wasn’t met with rave reviews, it wasn't really met with any reviews. No publicity tours or interviews. I felt like it fell through the cracks. Its birth was silent. I wonder if that was Lisa’s choice. To not push it, just let it run its own course. I got an advanced reading copy of it a few months prior to the actual release. I was so excited when it finally came out because I knew how good it was. I knew people would read it and connect to it, like they did with Three Women. They’d purchase it, read it, tell all their friends about it. It doesn't seem like that happened with Animal, so I’m going to pretend all of you are my super close friends and I’m gonna tell you all about it. 

Animal is more than a book. It is an experience. You feel it, the story, as if it is alive in your hands. With constant plot turns and our narrator Joan’s life going from worse to even more worse you find yourself at a point where you just can’t put it down. From the first few pages Lisa has you hooked. 

Animal is narrated by Joan in third person. She is a woman in her late thirties. She lives an interesting and unusual life. She is intelligent, and worldly. Her energy feels impossible to ignore. In the opening scene of Animal Joan tells us a man has just killed himself in front of her, while she is on a date with another man, in what is definitely a Michelin Star Restaurant in the city. Not really the setting for such a situation. This insane event pushes her to California. She drives cross country with the little things she has in search of some woman named Alice. Joan is full of mysteries. We don’t know who Alice is, what has caused Joan so much trauma, who is being addressed in the second person. There are so many secrets surrounding Joan, reading her story takes you on this wild ride with her to figure it all out. The story unravels in front of you. 

At its core it is a layered thriller about a woman who is trying to reckon with her past. There is a lot going on with Joan and her story, and Lisa does not hold back in creating visuals for each catastrophic event in her life. There are tons of triggers in this book from murder, suicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, pregnancy. It isn’t for everybody, but for those who want a book that will stay inside their mind for a whole after. This is the one for you. You feel like Joan is telling you the story, and you have this personal tie to her. Making this book impossible to put down, even at times where it is hard to read, you need to make sure Joan is okay, and so you keep going until there are no more pages to turn. 

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francesca cardamone

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