Reactions to Animals:

“A powerful piece of writing, and a disturbing call to conscience.”
- J.M. Coetzee

“If you read nothing else from this year’s batch of novels, … read Animals. Few Canadian novels have been as powerful.”
- University of Toronto Quarterly

“As an analysis of the human capacity to reconcile sentiment with savagery, Animals is spot on: psychologically incisive, admirably disquieting. … What makes the book powerful is just how keenly [the axe wielded by the book] cuts through our ethical hypocrisy.”
- The Globe and Mail

“LePan has an affectless, dispassionate writing style, and he convincingly paints a picture of a callous, self-serving, dystopian world....He has an astute understanding of the contradictions and weaknesses of human narture. ... Animals will almost certainly make you look at that steak on your dinner plate a little differently.”
- The Boston Globe 
“...devastating. Animals is a powerful novel, and a fully convincing one. …”
- P.K. Page 
“an engaging story that asks deep and challenging questions.”
- Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton

“Rarely, but on occasion, a book changes how you see the world and you know the change will be permanent. This is one of those books. It is an important and difficult novel, written beautifully.
- Laura Moss, University of British Columbia, co-editor of Canadian Literature in English
“Provocative, original, beautifully crafted and achingly human, this is a novel that illuminates what we so called ‘higher beings’ strive to keep darkly hidden from our consciousness. No more, no more. Animals … is destined to become a classic.”
- Catherine Banks, author of Bone Cage (winner, Governor General’s Award, Drama, 2008)
“a deeply moving narrative that can change your life—it did mine.”
- Thomas Hurka, Jackman Distinguished Chair in Philosophical Studies, University of Toronto

“As gripping as it is important, LePan's brilliant first novel tackles the largest moral issue of our time.”
-Jonathan Balcombe, author of Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals

Animals is a rare work of imagination that addresses a very real issue — it might remind you of Animal Farm, 1984 or The Jungle. The story is brief and compelling, and LePan's prose is, at times, lovely and lyrical.”
-Sante Fe New Mexican

“Immediately gripping and deeply moving, Animals imagines a future in which nonhuman animals have become extinct, and “defective” once-human beings called mongrels have replaced them. … In this powerful tale of a mongrel boy named Sam, Don LePan compels us to consider our own relationship to the fellow creatures that we love, abuse, and eat.  Animals is an engrossing, elegantly written, and timely contribution to the great tradition of dystopic fiction.”
- Kathryn Shevelow, Professor of English Literature, University of California, San Diego; author of For the Love of Animals (listed as one of 2008’s outstanding books by The Globe and Mail and The Washington Post)

“If you read any novel, read this! Animals is one of the most important Canadian novels to have emerged in many years. Utterly disturbing and gripping and incredibly well told, it poses difficult questions and highlights in unsettling ways our capacity for complicity in a whole range of practices that we would rather simply not know about. … The story itself is extraordinarily well conceived—it is so easy to go overboard with this kind of writing, but LePan never does. Quite the opposite, a great part of its power lies in what LePan manages to avoid; the narrative is suggestive rather than graphic or confrontational. … What can get lost in the brilliance of the satire is just how beautiful the writing is—always at its most poetic at all the most awful moments. … The final sections were about the saddest thing that I have read, but never in a way that seemed needless or opportunistic or excessive. This is a major addition to Canadian literature.”
-Paul Keen, Professor and Chair, English Department, Carleton University

“Animals is an impressive book that makes a powerful statement—I think it is the Animal Farm of these times. It’s also an accomplished work formally; a flowing narrative forms its central current, but brilliant shifts in style and narrative voice keep swirling within that current, and strong commentaries that are moral yet not homiletic keep forming eddies around it.”
- Victor Ramraj, Professor of English Literature, University of Calgary, editor of Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English

Animals is heart wrenching and urgent; it explores to profound effect the compellingly murky territory of what it means to be a human animal in contemporary society. I greatly enjoyed reading it—and I look forward to teaching it!”
- Ella Soper-Jones, English Department, University of Toronto 

Animals is fearless and … makes a compelling case. … Sam is the emotional heart of the story…. [His] life as Naomi’s pet, and the divisions his presence exposes in the attitudes of her parents, carry manifest social implications. Here, LePan’s storytelling skills are on full display and the narrative brims with tension…. Animals is a brave and frequently fascinating debut novel, wrought with painful choices, harrowing journeys, and a deep passion for its subject matter.”
- Montreal Review of Books

“When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, she didn't take kindly to the label of science fiction, eventually telling the Guardian, ‘Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.’ Apply her definitions to fellow Canadian Don LePan’s first novel, and it becomes clear why Animals is so disturbing: the monsters are all-too-recognizably human. Animals depicts a terrifying future not too many generations down the road. … Animals is a novel, yes, but it is also an unabashed call to arms … It has almost as much in common with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation as it does with The Handmaid’s Tale or Oryx and Crake. The story, [which] revolves around Sam, a boy who is mistaken for a mongrel and abandoned by his family … is an enchantingly horrifying orphan’s tale. Its message [is] that our choices at the grocery store can relieve or engender unconscionable suffering.”
- The Montreal Gazette


Tammy kept losing jobs—at the checkout counter, as a hospital cleaner, and now with the before-and-after-school program. But what worried her most was Sam, her youngest. From the time he was very young it had been clear that something was wrong with Sam, seriously wrong. And though they didn’t often speak of it, the whole family could certainly see it. “He’s pathetic,” Sam’s sister Letitia would sneer to her friends, “pathetic.” Tammy never felt that way herself, not for a moment. But what was she to do?—that was the question. Animals follows Sam on the extraordinary odyssey that begins with Tammy’s decision. Central to the narrative of his progress are the Stinson family—above all Naomi Stinson, a young girl who develops a special feeling for the strange creature, Sam. 
Animals is set in an indeterminate future in which virtually all the species that humans have for millennia used as food have become extinct; the world it creates is at once eerily foreign and disturbingly familiar. In the sharp-edged ethical questions it poses, in the narrative techniques it employs, and in the story itself, Animals is a highly unusual novel.

The author: Don LePan has spent most of his adult life working as a book publisher; he is the founder and president of the academic publishing house Broadview Press. He has also worked as a taxi driver in Toronto, a hospital cleaner in Lewes, England, and a teacher in rural Zimbabwe. He holds a BA from Carleton University, an MA from Sussex University and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Trent University in 2004 for his contribution to academic publishing. His other books include a study of Shakespeare’s plots and of cognitive history, an overview of common errors in English, and a monograph on Tennyson’s war poetry; this is his first book of fiction. He has for many years painted large skyscrapers and baseball stadiums; his first solo exhibition was held in Brooklyn in 2008. Born in Washington, DC and raised in Ontario, he lived has lived for most of the past fifteen years in Calgary, Alberta; in August 2009 he relocated to Nanaimo, British Columbia. In recent years he has also lived in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Animals: A Novel is now available at many bookshops throughout North America. Canada. Orders may also be placed through the Véhicule Press or Soft Skull Press websites, through other online retailers, or through your local retailer. The distributor for Véhicule is LitDistCo in Georgetown, Ontario (; the distributor for Soft Skull/Counterpoint is Publishers Group West. Promotional queries should be directed to (Canada) or (USA). The author may be contacted at; his blog may be found at

A brief excerpt from Animals:
[Part One of the novel appears in its entirety elsewhere on this site.]

As soon as its lips moved she knew it was a mongrel. She heard the gurgle where proper words should be. And she knew she wanted to keep it, wanted to hold it and make it warm, wanted to make it her special friend. Her Mummy and Daddy had told her she couldn’t have a mongrel, mongrels were too much trouble, she’d get tired of it, in the end half of them had to be sent to the Repositories anyway, in the end people who kept mongrels got tired of them, that was just a fact, half the time or even more than half the time it didn’t work out. But Naomi knew it wouldn’t be like that with her, not with a little one that was hers—one like this one that was a little creature and also a good creature. Mummy and Daddy had told her she could sometimes know inside herself if someone else had a good heart or a not so good one, and it was true, she could, she knew Mr. Carruthers at the corner store was a bad person no matter what anyone said, he did things with his hands behind the counter that made you want to run away before you had paid for your candy, and Ms. Riis at the library, rhymes with fleece, she would always say, not rice, not nice, but she was nice, she was good, you could know that.

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