New Animal (FORTHCOMING)
a novel by
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Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Shortlist.
Harpers BAZAAR UK Best Books of 2022.
Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2022.
The Millions Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2022 Book Preview.
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.
Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.
* Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Shortlist
From the Readings announcement, on New Animal by Ella Baxter:
"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."
"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"
"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, 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 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
"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.”
"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)
"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)"
"[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.
Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from New Animal!
View New Animal sneak peek on Issuu.com
FORMAT: Paperback (1st printing with gatefold)
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).