Bad Animals: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Bad Animals: A Novel By Sarah Braunstein Cover Image

Bad Animals: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Staff Reviews

Maeve is a straight-laced librarian, but her life begins to spiral after a teenager accuses her of peeping in the bathroom. To cope, Maeve writes to her favorite author, Harrison Riddles. When Riddles responds to Maeve’s letters, she becomes intimately roped into his plans to write about her friend, a Sudanese refugee named Willie. Bad Animals leans into uncomfortable, taboo themes, but oh my god was it fun to read.

— Maddie

A sexy, propulsive novel that confronts the limits of empathy and the perils of appropriation through the eyes of a disgraced small-town librarian.

Now that her brilliant botanist daughter is off at college, buttoned-up Maeve Cosgrove loves her job at a quiet Maine public library more than anything. But when a teenager accuses Maeve—Maeve!—of spying on her romantic escapades in the mezzanine bathroom, she winds up laid off and humiliated. Stuck at home in a tailspin, Maeve cares for the mysterious plants in her daughter’s greenhouse while obsessing over the clearly troubled girl at the source of the rumor. She hopes to have a powerful ally in her attempts to clear her name: her favorite author, Harrison Riddles, who has finally responded to her adoring letters and accepted an invitation to speak at the library.

Riddles, meanwhile, arrives in town with his own agenda. He announces a plan to write a novel about another young library patron, Sudanese refugee Willie, and enlists Maeve’s help in convincing him to participate. Maeve wants to look out for Willie, but Riddles’s charisma and the sheen of literary glory he promises are difficult to resist. A scheme to get her job back draws Maeve further into Riddles’s universe—where shocking questions about sex, morality, and the purpose of literature threaten to upend her orderly life.

A writer of “savage compassion” (Salvatore Scibona, author of The Volunteer), Sarah Braunstein constructs a shrewd, page-turning caper that explores one woman’s search for agency and ultimate reckoning with the kind of animal she is.

Sarah Braunstein is the author of The Sweet Relief of Missing Children. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and the Harvard Review. The recipient of a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 prize, she lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches at Colby College.
Product Details ISBN: 9781324051046
ISBN-10: 1324051043
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English
…Braunstein fashions a red-hot poker that skewers the limits of the white imagination…[A] sharp-witted, ravishing novel.
— Claire Luchette - New York Times Book Review

Braunstein makes Maeve's emotions palpable as she attempts to clear her name and deal with her empty nester woes. [Bad Animals] has plenty of charm.

— Publishers Weekly

Exploring themes of appropriation, obsession, and control, Braunstein’s tangled novel will leave readers unsettled.
— Booklist

Full of ideas, plot, verve, interesting scenes, and good writing…A writer to watch.
— Kirkus

Wise, wily, intriguing, and so much fun, Bad Animals mesmerized me. I did not want it to end. This is Braunstein at her very best.

— Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers

Bad Animals opens with a delightful shock, and then the fun begins. With deft, sly, loving insight into the human animal and its genius for self-deception, Braunstein ratchets up and sustains this extraordinary novel’s elegance and complexity until the last, beautiful sentence.

— Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and Welcome Home, Stranger

Sarah Braunstein’s Bad Animals is a dazzling high-wire act. Absolutely chilling.

— Richard Russo, author of Somebody’s Fool

Bad Animals is a story of intrigue, and mystery, and love. Above all, it’s about the lies we tell each other—and the ones we tell ourselves. It’s best book yet by one of my favorite writers—haunting, unsettling, and unforgettable.

— Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of Good Boy and coauthor of Mad Honey

Wild, wicked, whip-smart, hilarious—Bad Animals brought out the hungry reader in me and I devoured it, blissfully. Sarah Braunstein is tough and tender in equal measure: unsparing on the subjects of whiteness, literary lions, and good intentions, yet so large-hearted that this giddy misadventure cannot help but turn moving in the most true and abiding way.

— Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, author of Likes

Bad Animals kept me up all night for its gorgeous prose, its breathtaking insights into human nature, and its fresh, original page-turning plot. What a triumph.

— Monica Wood, author of The One-In-a-Million Boy

With a high-wire plot that’s beautifully built and slyly rendered, Bad Animals interrogates the insanely high costs of self-deception and offers us a supremely wise and damn funny story of bravery in the face of abject longing.

— Susan Conley, author of Landslide