New Animal by Ella Baxter – Book review

Raw is the word that springs to mind when I think of New Animal. This is a raw read that deals with a young woman’s grief. It cuts right through to the base level of human nature and so eloquently explores such a sensitive emotion. Grief is unique to everyone and the reason New Animal was such a high-impact read for me was the way it nailed that super-personal take on the situation.

Opening sentence: There is a man with kind eyes and crooked teeth in my bed.

Becoming a New Animal

The lyrically named Amelia Aurelia is our lead character. Her job is pretty unique: she does mortuary make-up at her family’s funeral home (there were definitely Six Feet Under vibes, I loved that show back in the day).

Amelia’s take on why she loves her job was really interesting to read and puts a new perspective for me on what many would view as a grim topic:

The deceased are beyond beautiful, but only because they are so emptied of worry.

Work and real-life collide for her when her mother suddenly dies. This then leads her to both learn what makes her tick, how to manage her own grief and how to deal with her family’s grief.

Over the years I have learned that grief is contagious. You can catch it if you get too close.

Through sex and exploring BDSM she tries to substitute her internal pain for physical pain, with varying results. This book absolutely does not hold back in describing some graphic scenes but they were all relevant and needed for Amelia to go through her grieving process.

Other people have always been the canary in the mine for me.

Amelia is such a wonderfully crafted character. Her nuances and the way she copes with the hugely upsetting situation she finds herself in was so well written. She became a real, rounded woman who I just wanted to be OK.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was how dry and funny a lot of New Animal would be. Its deadpan tone was seamlessly blended with stark, raw emotion and the effect was so fresh, exciting and heart-felt. I feel like this novel came out of the blue for me and knocked me for six. This is Australian author Ella Baxter‘s debut novel and I just loved it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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