When a writer’s dear friend of several decades, her former teacher and mentor, a well known author, attempts to commit suicide, the results are devastating for her. Her grief seems unrelenting. When offered the opportunity to care for his rather large dog, she refuses at first, but then she relents, even though her lease specifically states no dogs allowed! The dog’s presence will make her feel her friend is still with her, and his absence will be less complete.
Although we never learn the names of the characters, except for Apollo, the Harlequin Dane, we know many of them are actively involved in the world of words. The story is told in the first person as the author relates her feelings regarding writing, teaching, suicide, sex slaves, abusive male behavior, animal relationships and human relationships.
From the beginning, it feels like a treatise on several progressive principles, on the right to take one’s own life, on women’s rights and women’s needs, on women’s behavior and women’s struggles and on men’s toxicity regarding their thoughts on and treatment of women. It is a perfect presentation of the current political themes being publicized and stressed in today’s environment. Like so many books today, liberal principles were out front. The men are portrayed practically as serial abusers, and the women are the unwilling, or sometimes, willingly, abused participants.
The book, in great detail, lays out how the author deals with her loss through her relationship with her friend’s dog, now in need of an owner, and this relationship is also compared to the devoted and sometimes loyal relationship of human to human, as well. Can a dog be a kind of substitute spouse!
Although the language felt unnecessarily crude, at times, the book is thoughtful and decisive in its clear presentation of relationships and the reactions to the loss of same. It is told well, and at times, the reader may feel it is more like a memoir than a novel. In essence, this book is about loss, the immediate and delayed reactions to it, the grieving process, the eventual adjustment to it, and the recovery.
The main character, the grieving author, teaches journaling. Essentially, this book is her story, her journal. She is relating it to the reader. The journey she relates will take the reader into her most personal moments. Her fairly relaxed, cavalier attitude towards life and its rules may appear in contradiction to her overwhelming feelings of loss, at times. The surprising similarities and coincidences concerning our relationship with humans and animals will make the reader think or raise an eyebrow in wonder, at times.
What is the main purpose of the novel? Is it about friendship, loss, grief, relationships, love, devotion, fidelity, abuse? Is it about changing times, politics? What is the main character’s ultimate purpose? We do not discover much until the end. There are a dozen parts to this story, and they all come together in the end, in a surprising reveal.
Can an animal take the place of a human in someone’s life? Is it a positive or negative quality if a book seems more real than the fiction it was meant to be? Is the issue of support animals being abused for the right reasons, or is it wrong no matter what? Can a dog have human thoughts and feelings? Are writers privileged, and therefore, are they sometimes white supremacists? Should taking one’s life be considered a bad thing or a choice? Do we have a right to make that choice over living or dying?
In the end, does the author conclude that some writers, largely the young, new students, have become intolerant to new ideas; are they too politically correct and/too political? Are students unwilling to hear thoughts they disagree with so they can come to terms with them? Have novels become politicized? Are they no longer about anything but social issues?
There is added interest in this novel as quotes from renowned authors and philosophers, perhaps not always well known or popular, are provided to illustrate the author’s feelings. The narrator of the audio reads it in what feels like a somewhat flat, dead-pan manner which is perfect for this novel because it neither gives the reveal away nor does it even hint at it until the final moment when the truth is told. Is the author writing a kind of memoir or a novel about her friend? The reader will wonder, what is real, what is not?