The Vegan by Andrew Lipstein – Review

The Vegan by Andrew Lipstein - Review (1)

By Helen Johnston

I’ve read some strange books in my time, but this one might just be the strangest. Not just because of the story but because of the book itself. There are no chapters, and any speech is just in italics – no speech marks, and often no clear indication of who’s talking.

Maybe this is someone’s idea of a fun way to arrange text but I’ve always liked a chapter so I can think to myself, I’ll just read a couple of chapters of my book. And it’s always nice to know who is saying what. Maybe these things are considered old hat now.

The Vegan is very odd. Although, maybe that’s what will make people keep turning the pages, trying to figure out what is going on in the mind of Herschel Caine, the man who narrates the story.

Herschel has a qualitative hedge fund with his business partner Milosz and lives a nice life in New York with his wife Franny. Herschel and Franny are keen to keep up with neighbours Philip and Clara in their Brooklyn neighbourhood and invite them round for a dinner party, which is invaded by unwanted gregarious guest Birdie from the UK.

As the night wears on Birdie becomes an increasing irritant to Herschel who decides to slip a sleeping pill into her drink as a joke, to force her to go home early. This she duly does, with unintended consequences.

The Vegan by Andrew Lipstein - Review (1)

“New revulsion”

Guilt weighs heavily on Herschel and so begins some kind of psychedelic journey into a world where animals take on huge significance and he finds it impossible to eat meat anymore. Hence the book’s title.

This sudden decision to turn vegan annoys Franny and threatens to derail their plan to start trying for a baby. Herschel tries to overcome his new revulsion to meat (and watching Franny eat it) by buying a lamb shawarma pitta from a halal street stall but later ends up throwing it out of a taxi window.

He becomes attached to a neighbour’s dog, crying over it and freaking out its owner who demands to know what’s going on. Herschel also breaks into a zoo and then strips naked in front of a red panda. Weird, right?

Then he decides to buy a couple of lizards as pets just as his hedge fund hits major problems, which results in him taking drastic action which will have lasting consequences for all involved. Meanwhile, he’s housed the lizards in a tank at home, much to Franny’s bemusement. But then follows an unfortunate cannibalistic incident.

If you’ve managed to keep up with all of that, then maybe The Vegan is for you. But I prefer my stories a bit easier to follow. This is Lipstein’s second novel and his third is due out in 2025, so he’s obviously doing something right. He’s also got the scariest author photo on a book jacket I’ve ever seen, glaring into the camera with piercing eyes and a frown. Maybe he’s daring us to enjoy his work. I just wish he didn’t have something against chapters.

‘The Vegan’ by Andrew Lipstein is published by Orion


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.