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Description - New Animal by Ella Baxter

'Profound, profane and darkly hilarious.' - Bri Lee
'Funny, raw, gutsy and stealthily sweet.' - Emily Maguire

... most nights I find myself trying to combine with someone else to become this two-headed thing with flailing limbs, chomping teeth, and tangled hair. This new animal. I am medicated by another body. Drunk on warm skin. Dumbly high on the damp friction between them and me.

It's not easy getting close to people. Amelia's meeting a lot of men but once she gets the sex she wants from them, that's it for her; she can't connect further. A terrible thing happened to Daniel last year and it's stuck inside Amelia ever since, making her stuck too.

Maybe being a cosmetician at her family's mortuary business isn't the best job for a young woman. It's not helping her social life. She loves her job, but she's not great at much else. Especially emotion.

And then something happens to her mum and suddenly Amelia's got too many feelings and the only thing that makes any sense to her is running away.

It takes the intervention of her two fathers and some hilariously wrong encounters with other broken people in a struggling Tasmanian BDSM club to help her accept the truth she has been hiding from. And in a final, cataclysmic scene, we learn along with Amelia that you need to feel another person's weight before you can feel your own.

Deadpan, wise and heartbreakingly funny, New Animal is a stunning debut.

'New Animal is a wild, moving and original debut - and like the best bits of sex and funerals, it's very, very funny.' - Robert Lukins
'Sex, death, humour, and heart - this novel has it all.' - Laura Elizabeth Woollett
'. . . deeply uncomfortable, laugh-out-loud funny and devastatingly moving . . .' - Erin Hortle

Buy New Animal by Ella Baxter from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.

Book Details

ISBN: 9781760877798
Format: Paperback / softback
(234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 2-Mar-2021
Country of Publication: Australia

Book Reviews - New Animal by Ella Baxter

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Book Review: New Animal by Ella Baxter - Reviewed by (27 Mar 2021)

3 stars New Animal is the first novel by Australian writer and artist, Ella Baxter. When, on the first pages, the protagonist is filling awkward post-coital moments musing on the sort of funeral make-up she would do on the guy she’s with, the reader knows they are in for a very different read.

A year after her friend threw himself off a cliff, Amelia Aurelia is processing her grief and confusion, or perhaps avoiding it, with multiple casual sexual encounters via a dating app. She loves her job at Aurelia’s Funeral Parlour, is a qualified embalmer and talented at preparing the deceased for viewing.

When her mother dies after a fall down the stairs, it is probably little surprise that Amelia runs away to her birth father’s home in Tasmania, and then, in order to distract herself from the right-or-wrongness of her non-attendance at Josephine’s funeral, goes to a BDSM club with a stranger.

Baxter’s debut novel does illustrate how individuals process grief differently. The blurb is somewhat misleading: the fathers’ “intervention”, which only occurs in the final pages, is bizarre. While there is plenty of laugh-out-loud humour, much of it quite black, Baxter also includes a fair bit of explicit sexual description, there’s a generous use of expletives, and Amelia’s first session at Widow Maker has a definite “ick” factor, so this book will not be for everyone.

As well, readers of a certain vintage may have difficulty relating to Amelia’s reactions and behaviour; she seems almost entirely self-focussed and it is likely that the millennial generation will better identify with her mindset. Much of the descriptive prose is evocative, but the ending is rather vague, unresolved, and heavy on abstract symbolism. A quirky debut novel. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen & Unwin.

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