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The Whole Animal

The Whole Animal

By Corinna Chong
Categories: Women's Literature, BIPOC, Asian Literature, Fiction
Paperback : 9781551529158, 184 pages, 2023


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.


These stories have a clarity that belies their depths. Corinna Chong's hallmark is a blend of simple and startling, gorgeous and grotesque, making each story unpredictable - and unforgettable. A powerful collection. -Alix Hawley, author of All True Not a Lie in It

These irresistible stories are so compellingly drawn you'll find yourself devouring them, one after the other, like chapters of a page-turning mystery novel. Corinna Chong's vivid, seamless style draws you in and leaves you wanting more. -Lynn Coady, author of Hellgoing

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, "There's 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

The Whole Animal introduces a startling new writer, one who is drawn to the disruptions of contemporary life and clearly unafraid of using the blunt language of her generation. The characters here speak with the voices of the present, each of them trying to make sense of the empty promises and real upsets that affect and confuse them. The result is a collection of thirteen 'briefs' - each operating with a kind of medical precision, probing the sores and scars of survival. -BC Review

The stories in this collection often end with an appeal to the senses, a repetitive and rhythmic sound, or a layering of flesh on flesh. There are no last words, only lasting images. These are the best kind of short stories - those that pose questions, ones the reader must pause after to ruminate on and to allow every grain of perfect sediment to settle before continuing to the next. -Herizons

The Whole Animal is masterfully attuned to the minute details that can suddenly turn familiar worlds into wilderness ... This work casts a tender and unflinching eye on a wide array of human ugliness, large and small, internal and external, in order to show the whole animal; to lay bare the dark emotional forces and gut feelings that enable our survival. -EVENT