I think Alexandra Leggat’s Animal is about more than abortions and puppies. In fact, I know it’s also about uneven expectations in relationships, compromises, and the lies that appearances belie, but when I think of my overall impression what comes to mind are abortions and dogs. I don’t even think the short story collection has a single story with an abortion in it (miscarriages, yes) but somehow many of them contain the same kind of sadness: aborted love, aborted futures, aborted choices. As for dogs, characters routinely long for particular dogs. Not in the way a teenage girl longs for a prom date, but in the way older women long to return to their younger bodies so as to live in them with pride and confidence: that is, a frustrated, anxious and sad kind of longing. I’m not sure why it’s dogs they long for, and not, say, other people. Perhaps because the collection as a whole suggests other people ought not to be trusted, ought not to be relied upon, because they will inevitably be selfish.
I preferred stories in the middle section of the collection – no good reason why. On the whole I felt too many of the stories ended with a “This is a very symbolic ending!” kind of wrap-up, and that characters received uneven development. All the same, the rich thematic scope and some brilliant descriptions of suffering women makes the collection a worthwhile read if you’re into depressing scenes in bathtubs.