Aryn Kyle's first published short story, "Foaling Season," appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in May 2004 and went on to win the National Magazine Award for fiction that same year. In 2007, Kyle expanded this award-winning, coming-of-age story into the novel The God of Animals. Reviewers found the novel even more stunning. Soon readers were praising Kyle’s debut novel as one of the best they had read that year.
Having been raised in Colorado near horse ranches, Kyle was familiar with the setting of her work of fiction. Her protagonist, twelve-year-old Alice Winston, lives on a ranch that has been in the family for several generations but has seen better days. In order to keep his family together, Joe Winston, Alice’s father, decides to board horses of the rich families that are steadily moving into the farming community. The horses are pampered, consistent with the women who own them. And as the Winston family members build their relationships with the wealthy women, their lives change. Alice’s mother, who is chronically depressed and rarely leaves her bedroom, watches from the second floor as the women work their horses under the tutelage of her husband. Joe, though in love with his wife, misses her companionship and succumbs to the attention of the women. Between her mother’s illness and her father’s dependence on the money the women bring in, Alice is all but forgotten. Her eighteen-year-old sister, Nona, has run away from home with a bronco rider, leaving Alice with little guidance. A friend at school has drowned, leaving Alice to ponder death and the meaning of friendship. She turns to Mr. Delmar, her English teacher, calling him at night and having long, secretive and somewhat suggestive conversations with him. Alice thinks Mr. Delmar is in love with her, but Mr. Delmar is a delusional drunk.
Using a powerful narrative voice, Kyle tells her story through the daily work on the ranch. From the way Joe trains horses and their riders, to the way Alice tackles the bridges she must cross to get from the world of a young teen to that of adult, Kyle presents her theme of love. Through the novel, Kyle explores the various types and levels of love's challenges, failures, and rewards.