Nominated for the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel
When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn’t have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown. When We Were Animals is Lumen’s confessional: as a teenager she fell beneath the sway of her community’s darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident “breaches” during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path.
Lumen resists. Promising her father she will never breach, she investigates the mystery of her community’s traditions and the stories erased from the town record. But the more we learn about the town’s past, the more we realize that Lumen’s memories are harboring secrets of their own.
A gothic coming-of-age tale for modern times, When We Were Animals is a dark, provocative journey into the American heartland.
Joshua Gaylord grew up in Anaheim, California, and currently resides in New York City. He’s the author of one previous novel, and under the pen name Alden Bell, two horror novels, including The Reapers are the Angels. He received his Ph.D. in 20th century American and British literature from NYU, and has taught both at NYU and the New School.
“An excellent, disturbing premise [with] superb prose . . . Under [Lumen’s] spell, even the most staid reader would feel the impulse to run wild.” —Shelf Awareness
“A compelling read that will likely resonate—after all, what’s scarier than growing up?” —The Maine Edge
“A brilliant setup . . . A patient, thoughtful portrait of a girl progressing into womanhood, disguised as a work of speculative fiction”—Strange Horizons
“A fascinating look at a time during which we think we know everything, only to realize that we don’t even know ourselves . . . When We Were Animals takes us on a journey that is at once completely foreign and utterly relatable.” —Examiner.com
“In Lumen, Gaylord creates an unforgettable and, well, luminous narrative voice, and his language captures the lush, dangerous possibilities of teenage nights to perfection. . . . this book deserves a breakout success like that of Jeffrey Eugenides’s first novel, The Virgin Suicides.” —Library Journal (starred)