Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron

Last November at the Springfield (MA) dog show cluster several of my agility peeps were reading (or listening to) "A Dogs' Purpose: A Novel for Humans" by W. Bruce Cameron. Over the course of the 4 day trial weekend I must have heard "Oh Erica, you HAVE to read it! You'll LOVE it! It made me cry so hard." about 15 times. With that kind of build-up I approached the novel with some trepidation, I did spend the audible credit and download it to my iPhone that same weekend, but I didn't listen to it. I'm all for the occasional sappy read - even up for a dog book once in a while, but reading or listening to a book when I KNOW the dog is going to die (over and over again) isn't really my cup of tea - no matter how good the book reviews are. So it took me well over six months to sum up the courage to listen to "A Dog's Purpose" - and then only because I couldn't (again) get into "A Game of Thrones" and I'd finished Baldacci's "One Summer" on the way home from work last week - with no time to thoughtfully shop for another listen it was A Dog's Purpose or nothing....

The Publisher's Summary from Audible.com:
After a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey is surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy. Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of eight-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures, Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose?


Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the story of a dog's many lives but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This beautifully crafted novel teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on Earth is born with a purpose.

So I got into the car Saturday morning (at oh-dark thirty), took a deep breath and turned on A Dog's Purpose. About half way to the show I come to the part where the senior golden retriever (having lived a full life) is dying and I cried and cried and cried - glad to be in the car by myself, cathartic to let a whole bunch of stuff out. There I am gasping for breath trying to get a hold of myself before we arrived at the trial. Composure Erica, composure.

The story is as described in the publisher's summary. The dog's soul in the story begins as "Toby" the stray mixed breed puppy, then as Bailey the Golden Retriever, as Ellie the German Shepherd and finally as "Bear/Buddy" the Black Labrador.

In the end, I think that A Dog's Purpose was as good as it was advertised - but it still wasn't an easy listen. There's comfort in the rebirth and the continuation of soul throughout the novel. The dog's way of telling the story, from the perspective of a dog is reminiscent (but not derivative of ) Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain - which is still one of my favorite books of the last decade.

A Dog's Purpose was narrated by George K. Wilson who was an amazing Toby, Bailey, Ellie and Buddy. I think in another life Mr. Wilson was probably a "good dog" too.

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans was written by W. Bruce Cameron and narrated by George K. Wilson. A Dog's Purpose is  published by Tantor Audio and was released on July 12, 2010. A Dog's Purpose has a runtime of 9 hours 6 minutes.

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