The Whole Animal
A refreshingly original debut collection of short stories that grapple with the self-alienation and self-discovery that make us human.
For fans of Souvankham Thammavongsa, Lynn Coady, and Lisa Moore comes a striking debut collection of short stories that explore bodies both human and animal: our fascination with their strange effluences, growths, and protrusions, and the dangerous ways we play with their power to inflict harm on ourselves and on others.
Throughout The Whole Animal, flawed characters wrestle with the complexities of relationships with partners, parents, children, and friends as they struggle to find identity, belonging, and autonomy. Bodies are divided, often elusive, even grotesque. In "Porcelain Legs," a pre-teen fixes on the long, thick hair growing from her mother's eyelid. In "Wolf-Boy Saturday," a linguist grasps for connection with a young boy whose negligent upbringing has left him unable to speak. In "Butter Buns," a college student sees his mother in a new light when she takes up bodybuilding.
With strange juxtapositions, beguiling dark humour, and lurid imagery, The Whole Animal illuminates the everyday experiences of loneliness and loss, of self-alienation and self-discovery, that make us human.
In one of the final stories of The Whole Animal, a character remarks, of a house full of possessions after her husband has passed away, "Thereâs just so much." The reader sees only three: an antelope head, a cooler, and an electric carving knife. This is a perfect encapsulation of Chong's style, the writing always astute, deliberate, and keenly observed. Chong finds just the right details, whether the blank, glossy eyes of a stuffed antelope or the seemingly quiet moments on which a whole life turns - when a person is revealed to themselves, when a brush with cruelty embeds itself forever, when the world is a revelation - and lets them layer and build to devastating effect. -Kim Fu, author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century