Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Recommended Ages: 13+

A while ago, I bought a trade-paperback copy of a funny, romantic mystery-thriller called The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man off a Walmart magazine rack. Every so often, I've gone back to Walmart looking for its sequel, Repo Madness. I just liked the first book that much. Late last week, while I was doing that very search, I spotted this book by the same author, and decided to give it a shot. And now, several wads of Kleenex later, I can definitely say the experiment was worthwhile.

A Dog's Purpose is a heart-warming, tear-jerking story told from the first-person perspective of a dog - perhaps better described as a series of dogs, but basically the same doggy consciousness. With each rebirth, he (or, in one lifetime, she) remembers his or her past-life experiences, but wants to end the cycle of reincarnation by trying to discover its purpose as a dog, and accomplishing it. It hangs onto lessons learned in previous lives, helping it home in on achieving its purpose - which has something to do with finding and saving people, something to do with having the intelligence and fearlessness to explore its world, and a whole lot to do with loving, and being loved by, one special boy named Ethan.

I'm done summarizing the story now, for two reasons. First, I've already gotten myself choked up. I'm an emotional mess. Forget about it. The second reason is, if you knew any more, I would have to kill you to prevent the spoilers from spreading any further. And, as you already know, I'm too verklempt to make the effort. It's a lovely book, full of laugh-aloud humor and sob-aloud sorrow, heart-warming affection, and just a little of the mystery-thriller action I was angling for when I trawled the Walmart magazine aisle. I loved the characters, including the humans, dogs, cats, a donkey, and more. I cheered for the hero dog's quest to escape the wheel of doggy karma. And I realized that, in spite of their limitations, a dog's point of view really can be the focus of an excellent story.

Soon (like, January 2017) to be a film starring Dennis Quaid, this book has a sequel, A Dog's Journey, and two spin-off novels designed for younger readers, Ellie's Story and Bailey's Story. Ellie and Bailey, by the way, are the names of two of the hero dog's avatars in the original novel. Most of Cameron's other novels also seem to involve dogs, including the "Repo Man" series, whose main character's best friend is a bassett hound. Cameron is also the author of several non-fiction humor books, including 8 Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

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