Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
All Decent Animals

All Decent Animals

A Novel

Oonya Kempadoo

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




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.


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...


Praise for All Decent Animals

“How am I only now finding out about this writer? It's as if she's inventing her own language, which is incantatory, dense, and lush. The authority and blood pulse of it seduced me.” —Karen Russell, O, the Oprah Magazine

“Combining a highly lyrical prose, a superb command of the blending of languages, and an exacting power of observation, Kempadoo creates an unforgettable cast of characters. She also creates a hypnotic picture of Trinidad, one of the crossroads of the Caribbean.” —Claudio I. Remeseira, NBC Latino

“At its core [All Decent Animals] is the story of Ata's journey to become a writer. Ata evolves, emerging as both an artist from her work in Carnival costume production and freelance graphic design, and as a writer from life experiences among close-knit friends . . . In Kempadoo's style of writing, the text is a sensory experience: textures, fabrics, costumes, drum rhythms, colors of all vibrancies, tastes, heat, samba, sweat, sex. Often the text has an electric dialect of Trinidad, along with mesmerizing comparative language pulled from the locale. The ‘hustle and knivery' of the town . . . For Kempadoo, there is much emphasis on place in her characters . . . . For Kempadoo's characters, the place to look is where things connect; where there is the weaving of people, the coming together of them, the falling apart, the inevitable loss, the assemblage of so many unique threads of experience.” —Christopher X. Shade, New Orleans Review

“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

About the author

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

Oonya Kempadoo

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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