All Decent Animals A Novel

Oonya Kempadoo

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Oonya Kempadoo's moving third novel, All Decent Animals, looks at the personal and aesthetic choices of a multifaceted cast of characters on the Caribbean island of Trinidad—a country still developing economically but rich culturally, aiming at "world-class" status amid its poor island cousins. It is a novel about relationships, examined through the distinct rhythms of the city of Port of Spain.

Loyalties, love, conflicting cultures, and creativity come into play as Ata, a young woman working in carnival design but curious about writing, and her European boyfriend, Pierre, negotiate the care of their friend Fraser, a closeted gay man dying from AIDS. The contradictory Trinidadian setting becomes a parallel character to Fraser's Cambridge-derived artistic sensibility and an antagonist to Ata's creative journey.

All Decent Animals is a forthright inquiry into the complexity of character, social issues, and island society, with all the island's humor, mysticism, and tragedy.


Praise for All Decent Animals

"Kempadoo is extraordinary. She breaks old stories, makes them anew."—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of This Is How You Lose Her

"Kempadoo draws her characters and settings with such vivid strokes that her language leaps off the page . . . Her words create an infectious riot of rhythm and color."—Jerome Boyd Maunsell, The Times (London)

"[Kempadoo] has shown herself a writer to watch and to enjoy, for her warmth, her fine intelligence and her striking use of language."—Paula Burnett, The Independent

"Over the last 15 years, Kempadoo has established herself as a preeminent writer of Caribbean fiction . . . Kempadoo's narration alternates between the formal language of international development and a heavily dialectized slang, to create a creaolized island English. Together with references to local rhythms like calypso, kaiso, and soca, the effect is of sheer saturation, as seamlessly coupled as night jasmine and passion fruit, with certain scenes nearly synesthetic in their blending of sensory impressions. Yet even a climactic and mysterious encounter between lovers grows dark, wrapped in bitter seaweed and plunged in salt water."—Diego Báez, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



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FROM THE TIME ATA CAME TO VISIT this place as a shy child she told herself—this is a place for adults. From the time them lovely Maracas waves first chewed her up, when she saw teenagers dressed like big people, rich homes flashing TV style—everybody...

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  • Oonya Kempadoo

  • Oonya Kempadoo was born in England to Guyanese parents. She has lived in Europe and on various islands in the Caribbean. Her first novel, Buxton Spice, was published in 1998 to great acclaim. Her second novel, Tide Running, won the prestigious Casa de las Americas Literary Prize for best English or Creole novel. Kempadoo lives in St. George's, Grenada.

  • Oonya Kempadoo Thomas Langdon