Review for "Animals Eat Each Other" by Elle Nash (2018) Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Ok, I’ll admit it…the intriguing title–“Animals Eat Each Other”–of this book pulled me in. There is no animal on the cover, only a mirrored, vintage 1970’s style photo of a smiling woman. So I picked this up and read it, having never heard before of the author, Elle Nash. About 10 pages in, I realized that I was reading something quite special. Needless to say, I loved every moment of this book.
The unnamed 19-year-old narrator lives with her mother and works at a Radio Shack. She spends her extra time consuming Robitussin, taking her mom’s Percocets, and having empty, loveless sex with the people around her to boost her self-esteem. She is self-destructive and knows this, her narrative never condemns or denies this fact. The main character’s self-hate and need for physical and emotional pain lead her into becoming involved in a three-way sadomasochistic relationship with a man named Matt and his girlfriend, Frankie. Immediately we know that three is a crowd here, and it isn’t going to end well. The ‘darkness’ of the situation does not stop the narrator, who becomes obsessed with Matt and her behavior spirals further downward out of control.
What I loved about this book most was its sense of rawness and its lack of shame. You feel what the main character feels with her body, and it’s OK. I think this book speaks to where a lot of young women (me included) find themselves in their 20’s: passionate, energetic, vulnerable, and driven by a deep need to be desired. It is this vulnerability that takes the narrator to dark places, which she does not resist. There is a kind of madness in human attraction, pleasure in pain.
This novel is careful not to preach or moralize. It is not a cautionary tale. You’re not told what to do when you finish it. When I got to the last page I just let out a breath because…well, because. Immediately I wished this had been longer, but then again I think the short length here (120 pages) is appropriate because the narrator’s self-loathing is quite intense. As much as I loved this, this book is a dark, dark place. The author’s choice to get in there, tell the story in as few pages as possible, and move on is a good one.
The transgressive stuff in this book will turn off some readers (lots and lots of sex, drugs, Satanism) but these are not the ones who this book is for. I definitely recommend this if you are into darker stories that explore human nature and relationships.