a novel by
* ABA "Indie Next List" pick for March 2022.
* 2022 Best Young Australian Novelists awards, Winner.
* Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Shortlist.
* "A Best Book of 2022" —NYLON, Glamour, Refinery29 UK, Harpers BAZAAR UK
* "A Most Anticipated Book" —Lit Hub, The Millions
New Animal is a poignant, darkly comedic look at human connection from a biting and original new voice in Ella Baxter.
Amelia Aurelia is approaching thirty and her closest relationships — other than her mother — are through her dating apps. She works at the family mortuary business as a cosmetic mortician with her eccentric step-father and older brother, whose throuple’s current preoccupation is with what type of snake to adopt. When Amelia’s affectionate mother passes away without warning, she is left without anchor. Fleeing the funeral, she seeks solace with her birth-father in Tasmania and stumbles into the local BDSM community, where her riotous attempts to belong are met with confusion, shock, and empathy.
Hilarious and heartfelt, New Animal reveals hard-won truths as Amelia struggles to find her place in the world without her mother, with the help of her two well-intentioned fathers and adventures at the kink club.
GRIEF IS THE FAMILY BUSINESS
An excerpt of New Animal by Ella Baxter in Electric Literature, recommended by Courtney Maum, February 16, 2022
"Being a writer and writing are two separate things, and neither is easy"
An essay by Ella Baxter in The Sydney Morning Herald, January 28, 2022
Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.
"If you enjoy the weirder and more tender sides of life, this is for you. A cosmetic mortician who experiences a loss that leads to unusual coping mechanisms. A new, refreshing take on death, grief, parental love, pain and the ways we all tend to numb ourselves from reality.”
—Olivia Veveiros, Green Apple Books staff favorite releases of 2022
"You can’t produce the correct emotional response on demand, and other people’s interpretations of grief can sometimes be oppressive. New Animal is such a great novel about wanting to mourn in a totally unorthodox way, free from judgment, surveillance, and pressure."
—Sally Oliver, Lit Hub
"The Act of Mourning Itself is a Final, Destitute Version of Love.” A Reading List For the Grieving
"This story is unique and compelling. New Animal is funny, sad, and illuminating about the nature of mourning. Turns out, there's a lot to be learned about grief from the kink community. Who knew?"
—David Vogel, Buzzfeed
"16 Books To Fill The Sally Rooney-Sized Hole In Your Heart Once You've Binged Hulu's Conversations With Friends"
"By New Animal’s second page, when its protagonist, funeral embalmer Amelia Aurelia, is imagining how she’d do the death make-up of the man she just slept with, you’re certain that Bellingen-raised, Melbourne-based author Ella Baxter is one of our most original new literary voices."
—Robert Moran, Sydney Morning Herald, April 29, 2022
New Animal author Ella Baxter is one of three winners of the 2022 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists awards.
"Amelia is in her late 20s and working at her stepfather’s mortuary. But when her mother suddenly dies, rupturing her fragile family, Amelia flees to Tasmania, joins a BDSM community and embarks on a journey toward self-acceptance."
—The New York Times
"Newly Published | March 3, 2022"
“Just when you think you’ve got the story, Ella Baxter dives deeper. New Animal is a dark, humorous take on grief and connection, centered on a cosmetic mortician and her eccentric family. A ‘grab more wine and keep reading’ kind of book.”
—Kathy Baum, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
New Animal is an ABA Indie Next List pick for March 2022
"Sex, BDSM, death, grief—New Animal is an intense read... when a sudden loss severs her ties with someone she loves, Amelia sets off on a mission to outrun her grief."
—Alice Snape and Kiera Egan, Cosmopolitan UK
"The best book recommendations for a sad girl summer"
"Ella’s prose will grip you and not let go. This debut novel is vivid, raw, smart, darkly comic and genuinely unforgettable. Tightly wrought images will haunt you long after you close the book."
—Kay Wosewick (Boswell Book Company), Lit Hub
"Indie Booksellers Recommend the best of Independent Presses This February and March"
"This confident and gritty debut about a young make-up artist working in a mortuary takes the reader places they will never expect. Witty, emotional and raw, Amelia’s story is also laugh-out-loud funny, somewhat bizarre (in a good way), and unlike anything else you have ever read."
—Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Shortlist
From the Readings announcement, on New Animal by Ella Baxter
"[New Animal] interrogates death through the lens of physicality: the narrator, Amelia Aurelia, is a flailing almost-thirty-year-old working as a cosmetic mortician at her family’s mortuary business. The death of Amelia’s beloved mother triggers her fight or flight response—she chooses the latter, seeking solace in Tasmania’s BDSM scene. Watching Amelia interrogate her grief through the vehicle of sexual release and experimentation made a lot of sense to me. After all, aside from birth, death and sex are some of the most profound physical experiences available to humans... celebration of the human will to not just live, but feel alive."
—Courtney Maum, Electric Literature
Read an excerpt of the novel New Animal, recommended by author Courtney Maum
"A raw and irreverent portrait of one young woman's experience of the ways in which sexuality and sorrow overlap. Baxter's crisp, clean prose offers a surprisingly tender look at mourning from an unusual angle. A startling and intense meditation on sex, death and the uncontrollable responses a body has to both, New Animal is an arresting literary debut."
—Alice Martin, Shelf Awareness, starred review
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"Though the plot moves at a swift pace, and the BDSM arc is thoroughly entertaining, its Amelia’s meditations on grief and loss—and the anxiety that surrounds them—that make this novel sing. And it’s fascinating to watch Amelia go through the motions while attempting to reconcile what it means to be alive when everyone around you is dead.... For fans of Sally Rooney’s brand of millennial malaise and Six Feet Under’s tragicomic take on the mortuary business, New Animal is at turns graphic, raw and tender—a wholly human exploration of the Venn diagram of emotion."
—Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"Baxter’s crackling prose keeps the ship afloat. The novel is a pacey read, a soulful comedy, and an intimate case study of a young person trying to put her life together. New Animal packs a compelling tale in a narrative style that is equal parts caustic, wry, and nervy, and reflects the ways in which millennials continue to be stymied by the world around them. New Animal signals the entry of a new voice in fiction that is proliferated by disconnect and dissuasion."
—Anandi Mishra, Ploughshares
"Disconnect and Dissuasian in Ella Baxter's New Animal"
"New Animal examines the nature of death and sex through hilarious circumstances that illuminate the grotesque human condition of being confined to a body. Baxter’s writing feels utterly original, and she has a gift for juxtaposing dark emotional interiors with unexpected situations that are laugh-out-loud funny.”
—Shelby Hinte, BOMB
"Suburban Kink Parties and Scorched-Earth Novels: Ella Baxter Interviewed by Shelby Hinte"
"A cosmetic mortician struggles with the abrupt loss of her mother while also becoming involved in the Tasmanian BDSM community. Suffice to say, this darkly humorous novel is one of the most interesting takes on grief I've ever read."
—Jen Minor, Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
"Baxter takes on a refreshingly real and acerbic tone in her portrayal of Amelia, exploring the inner psyche of a young woman attempting to piece together her existence in the modern world... New Animal offers a new take on the aging millennial novel."
—Christina Obolenskaya, Cleveland Review of Books
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"Baxter’s character eloquently pulls the mask from not only the face of the death industry, but grief’s face as well. A wonderful novel, New Animal, is a groundbreaking, holistic call for reform, mostly of the self."
—Nicole Yurcaba, Southern Review of Books
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"While this novel is peppered with scenes in kink clubs and the macabre of Amelia’s profession — and is also, in places obscenely funny — this is a story of a young woman who has to figure out how to live without her mother and has to also understand how her two dads will put aside their differences to hold her through the loss of the woman they both loved. There is fiction about grief and then there is Ella Baxter’s New Animal. Truly stunning.”
—Wendy J. Fox, Buzzfeed
"16 Upcoming Books From Indie Presses You’ll Love"
"This strange, sexy, wonderful novel by Australian author Baxter follows a woman who works in her family’s mortuary and processes the grief of a loved one’s passing by an exploration of local kink clubs.”
—Lydia Kiesling, The Millions
"Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2022 Book Preview"
"In this raw, arresting novel, Amelia Aurelia—a cosmetic mortician—goes into a tailspin after the death of her mother. Included in the tailspin are: a trip to Tasmania, an uncertain communion with her birth father, dating apps, a BDSM club, kink-related paperwork, a horse head, painting a man’s face with menstrual blood, mean texts. Ultimately, [New Animal] is a book about something that seems obvious, but so often isn’t: the inextricability of mind and body, and the importance of our connections with other people."
—Emily Temple, Lit Hub
"Most Anticipated Books of 2022"
"There’s not one expected detail here... Excellent."
—Jenny Singer, Glamour
"The Best Books of 2022 to Add to Your Reading List"
"The book is a well-crafted one, relying on humor and authenticity, that narrative voice and those scenic skills, to render Amelia and her story in an engaging, authentic manner."
—D.W. White, The Rupture
(Read the full review of New Animal on The Rupture)
"There's a compelling quality to [Amelia's] honesty that recalls Raven Leilani's Luster or the sex-addicted eponymous narrator of Leila Slimani's Adèle. As with these books, Baxter focuses on the ways in which pain works its way through the body."
—Sarah Gilmartin, The Irish Times
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"The novel follows a mortuary makeup artist into the Tasmanian BDSM scene as she tries to make sense of a sudden loss."
—Natalie Wall, Refinery29 (UK)
"Filth & Loathing: Why ‘Gross’ Women Are Taking Over Literature"
"Baxter’s prose is a living thing, wild and snarling, its jagged claws and honed teeth unforgiving and relentless. Amelia stokes empathy as a woman seeking absolution down dead ends. Her codependency and repression are addressed in frank terms—'Other people have always been the canary in the mine for me'—and every beat of dark comedy is paired with an empathetic wince as Amelia forces herself past her limits. New Animal is at turns graphic, disturbing, and tender—in other words: human."
—Danielle Ballantyne, Foreword
(Read the full review of New Animal on Foreword)
"In her incredible debut, Baxter combines dark humor with a complex protagonist and bold narration to both astound and devastate her readers. Amelia is a memorable heroine who is raw with grief as she struggles with and explores the paradox of finding harmony in the dichotomy of life and death."
—Emily Park, Booklist
“At turns a rollicking sexual romp almost slapstick in its intensity and an existential meditation filled with the languid profundity of bodies at their final rest, this unusual novel navigates the most treacherous of emotional territories—the fault lines between love and grief, sex and death—with a deliberate lack of grace and real charm. A tragicomic debut by an impressive new voice.”
(Read the full review of New Animal on Kirkus)
"Australian writer Baxter debuts with a raw and mordant story of a woman processing her grief, sexuality, and family relationships... Baxter delicately balances the emotional heft of the situation with dark humor (Amelia, asked how she identifies while on the way to a kink club, responds, 'Human woman, tired, sad, on a date with you, not wholly sure what a sadist is') and finds clever ways to push Amelia toward coming to terms with her limits. It adds up to a convincing look at a young woman’s path toward self-acceptance."
(Read the full review of New Animal on Publishers Weekly)
“Trying to escape trauma by running away is hardly a new narrative concept but Baxter’s writing is so forthright, her protagonist so raw and unmediated in her feelings, thoughts and flailing at the ‘arrowhead of sorrow’ that New Animal makes for compelling reading.”
—Thuy On, The Sydney Morning Herald
(Read the full review of New Animal on The Sydney Morning Herald)
"At turns sad and funny, this story follows a young woman who works in the mortuary industry who is thrown by the death of her mother and struggling (in surprising ways) with how she works through the grief."
—Alana Haley, Schuler Books (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
"Baxter is fascinated with the female body, which 'trots everywhere with you like an indebted lover', and how it assimilates extreme emotions... Self-destructive anti-heroines are in vogue, but what Amelia’s story makes clear is how under-represented female sexuality still is."
—Alasdair Lees, The Telegraph
"The four best debut novels to read in 2022"
"[Main character Amelia] has outrageous sex to swallow her ineffable sadness, and though she’s from Australia rather than Ireland, she could have stepped from the pages of a Sally Rooney novel... Baxter is a sharp observer, and seems to have the Didion knack of getting close to a subject without surrendering her scepticism."
—Sarah Ditum, The Guardian
(Read the full review of New Animal on The Guardian)
"There’s an interesting dynamic to Amelia, the main character of Ella Baxter’s novel New Animal: she’s disembodied—her mind is quite detached from her body, yet her life is spent engaging with the messier facts of other people’s bodies... The story reaches a final scene of catharsis that is unexpectedly beautiful and transcendent, but it is as unforeseen and incomplete and fractured as emotional life itself."
—Rufus Hickok, Ordinary Times
(Read the full review of New Animal on Ordinary Times)
"This is writing that is sharp and fearlessly chaotic, grappling with the depths humans go to for mere illusion of control. Luridly funny and always surprising, New Animal takes on the promise of catharsis—and upends it entirely."
—Anahit Behrooz, The Skinny (UK)
(Read the full review of New Animal)
"New Animal is a wonderfully tender book. Ella Baxter doesn't shy away from any of the messiness of humanity, choosing instead to lean in, hard, and unpack all the ways that grief breaks us down and ultimately reshapes us. It's feral and raw, laugh out loud funny in parts, and absolutely the kind of family mess I love best. Baxter is a delightful writer and New Animal is a hell of a read.”
—Kristen Arnett, New York Times-bestselling author of With Teeth and Mostly Dead Things
"New Animal is filled with death and darkness, yet Baxter's prose feels so very alive. A novel that's core is ultimately one of hope, a complex, heartfelt ballad to the strange, sloppy ways we find ourselves growing into the people we were meant to become."
—Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl
"I inhaled Ella Baxter's New Animal, which is the sort of animal that is all spine, all teeth. The deftness of her prose, which is so damn funny, along with such a poignant and true and entertaining story, make this a book that positively glitters. Ella Baxter's New Animal is an animal that is so animal it's human."
—Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You're Hungry
"I loved this macabre, mordant, and very moving book. New Animal surprised and comforted me with its deft investigations of grief, power, and self, and with its beautiful prose. This is an economical novel that packs a major emotional punch."
—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
“New Animal is morbidly life-affirming, hilariously grief-stricken, sexy and lonely and lovely. Like a first date that goes way deep, like a coffin buried not quite deep enough. Ella Baxter’s prose is an exciting new animal I won’t soon forget."
—Hilary Leichter, author of Temporary
"How Baxter manages to make the journey of a motherless funerary mortician surrendering to the Tasmanian BDSM scene feel universal is testament to what this unique novel has to say about the effects of mourning on our bodies and our souls. Raw, courageous, and—somehow—super fun."
—Courtney Maum, author of Touch and Costalegre
"Ella Baxter's New Animal is a raw, arresting debut, toothy and surprising—a novel that manages to deeply consider the molten core of human experience (read: death, sex, memory, grief) while also poking fun at it. The result is an affecting, sometimes alarming balancing act that will worm its way inside your consciousness and absolutely refuse to leave."
—Emily Temple, author of The Lightness
"Ella Baxter's ambitious debut New Animal tousles with themes of loss, grief, and humanity. Her protagonist, Amelia, charts a path forward in the face of the death of her mother through engagement with the local BDSM community. Ultimately, however, it is Amelia's submission to vulnerability that rounds out her character arc. Throughout, Amelia is plagued by a feeling of dissociation between her mind and body—she wishes that one were able to exist without the other. By the novel's conclusion, she has been able to reconcile these two halves of her existence, and recognize that both are essential components of her whole self. The novel serves as a gentle reminder for those of us who tend to bury emotions that oftentimes it is best to simply allow ourselves to feel, a testament to the strength that can be found in allowing oneself vulnerability."
—Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-op Bookstores (Chicago, IL)
"With gorgeous prose and raw emotions bleeding across pages, Ella Baxter's debut New Animal is a portrait of grief and death unlike any you've read. Amelia Aurelia is lost. She loves her work as a cosmetic mortician but she can only find peace when screwing her brains out with random hook-ups. When she abruptly loses her mother, she becomes unmoored and avoids the funeral by leaving town. While staying with her birth-father, a man she barely knows, she dives deep into the local BDSM community where she seeks to find her footing. Baxter's writing is exquisite and this book surprised me over and over."
—Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)
"Our book of the week is New Animal by Ella Baxter. This debut Australian novel centres on Amelia, a cosmetician at her family's funeral home business. It's wry, funny and tender with Six Feet Under and Fleabag vibes."
—BOOKS ON THE GO Podcast hosted by Anna and Annie
Ep 167: New Animal by Ella Baxter, April 19, 2021
"One of 2022's most exciting debuts, New Animal is a blistering, darkly funny account of its narrator's eventful attempt to outrun her grief, in a 72-hour exploration of sex, death and pain."
—Marie-Claire Chappet and Helena Lee, Harper's BAZAAR
"The 10 best books of 2022 (so far)"
"The perfect book for the anti-Valentines crowd. Or, truly anyone with a good sense of humor. If you enjoy the weirdness of life and books with genuine tenderness, this is for you. A story of a cosmetic mortician who experiences a loss that leads her to strange coping mechanisms such as running away, bottling up emotions, and unique sexual habits. A new, fresh take on death, grief, parental love, pain and the ways we all numb ourselves from reality. Perhaps too early to say but could be my favorite book of 2022."
—Staff Pick, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
"New Animal by Ella Baxter is an instant staff favorite."
"[New Animal is] a story about sex, connection and, comically, the Tasmanian BDSM scene, that is by turns profound and funny."
—Kylie Northover, The Age
"New Animal is a rendering of a complex moment in time—a portrait of a young woman at the precipice of great personal change and growth—and is moving in its portrayal."
—Georgia Brough, Books + Publishing
"A stunning, heartbreakingly funny novel about sex, death, grief, and running away."
—Steffanie Tan, Pedestrian
"Most striking was Baxter’s sincerity and thoughtful, nuanced approach to storytelling."
—Giulia Brugliera, Fashion Journal
"New Animal is about death and death adjacent things, but it feels flooded with life. Same with the whole ‘devastating/hilarious’ thing: it’s not a balance of two states, but an exploration of their simultaneity."
—Mia Walsch, Archer
"Ella Baxter’s debut novel New Animal is a soulful and intimate comedy that fearlessly questions our attitudes towards death and sex. The novel’s profound descriptions of the body provide an anchor for Baxter’s honest and tender depictions of grief, which are contrasted with amateur BDSM experiences."
—Karen Lowry, ArtsHub
"New Animal is an excellent exploration of how grief can impact a young person’s life."
—Linda Godfrey, Newtown Review of Books
"Ella Baxter’s debut novel New Animal introduces a gritty, honest and complex protagonist in the form of Amelia, an embalmer working as a make-up artist at her mother’s mortuary. Baxter has created a dark, beautiful, wild and engaging read with an incredible ending to match."
—Izzy White, Readings
Ella Baxter is a writer and sculptor living in Melbourne, Australia. In her spare time runs a small business making bespoke death shrouds. She is currently writing her second novel, Woo Woo.
BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion
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Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from New Animal!
View New Animal sneak peek on Issuu.com
LIST PRICE: $17.99
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387127
DIGITAL ISBN: 9781953387134
RELEASE DATE: 2/15/2022
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).