Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marley and Me

When I was just a little girl, I thought I was more of a cat person than a dog person. I’d spend hours while pretending to do my chores, mainly focused on playing with the kitties and searching out new ones in the barn. They’d get so tame, that if you went pick up a bale, they’d scurry on to it to get your attention; or you decided to sit down for a rest, they’d climb right up on to you. I was personally hurt when my brother took to torturing the poor things, swinging them around by their tails and whatnot.

When my sister scoured the want ads and listened to “Swap Shop” on the radio religiously to find a suitable dog for the farm, I wasn’t too interested. When “Katy” arrived on the scene, I was annoyed that I couldn’t run barefoot on the lawn, or lay outside without the slobbering Collie all over me. She was a dumb dog. She stood in the middle of the road and barked at traffic. She climbed up the stairs on to the school bus. She got hit by tractors, the slowest moving vehicles on the planet. I was not her biggest fan.

When a lovable Golden Retriever/Labrador cross took her place; however, I changed my tune. Nelly was (and still is, as far as I know) a beautiful dog. A hot blonde. Gentle, more intelligent, so adorable that everyone in the family began giving her treats for the hell of it. If I decided to lay in the grass, she’d sit beside me with her tail thump-thump-thumping away.

It’s because of Nelly that Marley and Me by John Grogan was such a wonderful reading experience. It was easy to relate to the demeanor of Labs, the way the Grogans fell in love with the little pup, the unconditional love when Marley devoured the house and failed out of dog training. While our experiences with our beloved family pets were quite different, I couldn’t help but love this tale.

Before I start to gush too much, I feel the need to inform everyone that I haven’t seen the movie. A co-worker loaned me the book with her own story about how tears sprung to her eyes at opportune moments, warning me that if I was a crier (which I totally am) I was doomed. I don’t know if it was the fact that I carried this book around everywhere with me on the off chance that I’d get to read a couple pages here and there that prevented me from tearing up at the end of the story or not, but I didn’t cry. However, the fact that I wasn’t moved to tears didn’t ruin my impression of the novel.

Marley and Me is a relatable story about the impact a family pet can have on your life. Certainly, for anyone who had a dog growing up, or has one now, it’s easily to nod your head as you read about the trials and tribulations the Grogans face with Marley. Though we all come from different backgrounds, different family situations, and experiences, Marley and Me is the type of story that brings people together. This is probably why when John Grogan wrote the obituary for his pet in the paper he worked at, he received more calls, e-mails and letters than he had for any other piece of his career.

I spoiled it, but c’mon, you had to know that was coming.

Do yourself a favour, pick up Marley and Me and remember your own favourite childhood pet as the story unfolds.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Bed In Heaven

::Peace Turkey waves "hello" to the Book Me In community::

I found this short, amazing novel by Tessa de Loo on the "featured reads" shelf at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on a rainy, boring day when I was taking a break from studying last fall. Six months after finding this book, it's sticking with me like few books have.

A brief 128 pages in length, I gobbled up this book in one sitting in a dark, isolated corner of the library that day. And I've reread it many times since.

A cross between historical fiction and a family drama, A Bed in Heaven is the story of a Jewish Hungarian family deeply affected by World War II. Focused on Kata, the daughter of a man given shelter from the Nazis by a stranger at the height of the war, this novel broaches controversial topics about which novels are rarely written - incest, the power of female sexuality and a frank look at oft overlooked effects of war.

de Loo's writing style is sparse but descriptive at the same time. Certain sentences haunted me and made my heart ache. I would reread whole passages over and over again. If you feel like taking a break from the light-hearted, easy reads we're all wont to read during the holiday season, A Bed In Heaven is a great book to start with. Get your Kleenex ready and have a teddy bear or loved one on hand as you reach the last page. You're going to need a hug when you're done with this one.