4 out of 4 stars
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It’s not unusual these days for an author to tell the stories of animals and their daily encounters with other beings around them and also their interaction with us humans. I personally enjoy this. I expect the author will eventually tell a story and share a moral for us to take home by the end of the book, and I’ll even try to figure out how things will turn out by in the end.
The Way of the Dog by Eva A MacDonnell is not just this kind of story, it’s so much better than that—in many ways. It transports us to the world of dogs where we meet several realistic main characters who live in the house of a kind lady—Mary. Skylark has just given birth to a litter of five puppies. One of these puppies is Eros—a “metaphysical dog” of sorts. Eros is full of questions and cannot seem to get enough answers. Initially, he laps up everything his mother has to tell him—about humans and how they can be dogs’ best friends when properly trained, about how he himself is like a metaphysicist due the number of questions he asks, and about letting happiness define one’s existence. Eventually, though he cares deeply for his mother, he starts questioning her omniscience and decides to wander outside her domain to find out more answers to his never-ending questions.
Since humans aren’t as smart as animals, Eros runs to the barn and stables and tries to commune with pigs, sheep, and a horse to get all his deep questions about life, philosophies, and God answered. We get to know each of these characters as they share their beliefs, their current situations, and their hopes. As Eros “mingles” with his mother (a form of telepathic communication between dogs where two-way and sometimes one-way thought transfers occur) and also starts spending time with his siblings and other farm animals, we also get to see how dogs live their lives and how this thing that we call constancy is almost non-existent in their world.
I almost hesitate to use the term “plot,” because the characters and situations in this book seem very real rather than imagined. There is no plot as such—only a bunch of characters that have their own story to tell. We see Eros trying to learn the ways of life and we end up learning so much along with him. MacDonnell has done a very good job organizing, describing, and resolving what happens. As the book progresses, more is learned about dogs perspective on things, how every animal thinks it is superior to the others, and what the results of having a steadfast belief in just one philosophy are . I hesitate to give too much detail about this, because that would certainly include spoilers; but I did feel that whatever was presented was very satisfying and realistic.
Of course, it can also be important to mention that some things could have been done a little differently. For example, all the characters who get visited by Eros seem to communicate with him in similar style. Some more variety in presentation could have livened things up a little bit more. The author could also have paid a little more attention to making each character a bit more recognizable and unique.
I do have to say here that I found no editing errors that hampered the reading experience. Typos were minimal, and I don’t think these were too obvious either.
I suspect it will be no surprise that I am rating The Way of the Dog with 4 out of 4 stars in spite of the lack of too much variety in storytelling mentioned above. While I was reading this book, I was far more involved with the lessons on happiness that the book was teaching us than with noting possible improvements in the plot. In addition to all the positive things I mentioned above, I particularly liked how the author has made a genuine effort to teach us that finding happiness in the toughest of situations is what makes life so much more livable. I appreciate what MacDonnell has done with the book.
I would categorize this book as “Other Fiction,” instead of clubbing it under “Children’s” as this book has so much to teach all of us adults too. If you like wonderful characters, interesting perspectives, and really good lessons on happiness, The Way of the Dog is a book for you!
The Way of the Dog
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