Review: Connected short stories starring beautiful messes

“Filthy Animals,” by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)

Brandon Taylor’s “Filthy Animals,” a book of interconnected short stories, is a chronicle of pain, identity, recovery and the desperation we all feel for human connection.

A depressed and lonely man recovering from a suicide attempt finds himself caught in a love triangle with two dancers in an open relationship; a group of teenagers unable to control their emotions resort to brutal violence against one another; a young woman battles a terrifying illness; a babysitter recovering from a recent breakup finds herself stuck caring for a headstrong and wild little girl.

The stories are wrought with emotion and complexity, yet at the same time, Taylor’s writing is soft, quiet, gentle. The stories feel almost like slices of life, but the every day is heightened by the intensity of the characters’ longing, desire, anger and, above all else, passion. To be human each day, the stories seem to say, is to feel deeply and urgently.

Taylor’s characters are beautiful messes, with their flaws, uncertainty, and mistakes making them all the more intriguing and real. With some recurring in different stories, the reader is able to understand certain relationships from different perspectives and feel even more deeply the characters’ desperate attempts to connect to one another.

The book is also wonderfully queer and presents queer love and identities with all the intricacy and uniqueness they deserve.