Lumen Fowler led a fairly normal life as a child. At least that’s what she’d like everyone to believe now that she’s an adult. Now that she’s left that tiny town she grew up in, and the name she was born with, behind.
Her mother died early on, leaving Lumen and her father alone together. Theirs was a loving relationship until the winter of Lumen’s fifteenth year when she went breach. All of the teens in Lumen’s town did it – breached that is – usually around the time they hit puberty. Lumen’s dad did it, but her mom was different and Lumen always thought she would be as well. Now, as an adult looking back on that time of her life, Lumen still feels like part of her will be forever different from everyone around her. Like she’ll never be able to truly escape the past she’s tried so hard to outgrow.
Gaylord, who also writes as Arden Bell, delivers a bizarre and eerie tale in When We Were Animals. The story explores the various hormonal confusions of puberty – with an extra animalistic twist – and the messy emotions of teenage life, as well as the lingering questions of identity and fitting in that follow undoubtedly everyone into adulthood.
There are a lot of questions that are never answered in the book, the most maddening being the reason behind the town’s teens going breach in the first place. Lumen and her journey/experiences are the focus of the tale but even she spends a good amount of the story trying to discover the truth behind the trend.
Unresolved issues aside, Gaylord’s latest is an engaging, almost hypnotic, read and one that will appeal to fans of fiction that’s goes a bit beyond the boundaries of easily categorized genre fiction.
6/15 Becky LeJeune
WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS by Joshua Gaylord. Mulholland Books (April 21, 2015). ISBN 978-0316297936. 336p.