About A Delightful Book

I had intended at the outset to write a one-paragraph book review. But upon further consideration, decided, “Oh, what the hell”. And so, with out further ado, and — (upon the advice of one Leroy Jethro Gibbs— for those of you who are also NCIS fans) — without apology …

I read my first book at age four. The book was Angus And The Cat — Angus being a black Scottish Terrier. I remember little else about the book except that it had lots of pictures. And that for some reason my mother was very excited to realize that I was actually reading and not merely memorizing as she had suspected. But she was not nearly as elated as I, for I had discovered the magical world of books. It’s somewhat akin to looking back on your first love — you might forget the details, but you sure do remember the emotion.

In the intervening 80 years, I have read many, many books. Some were very good, some not so much; some instructional; some esoteric; some amusing; some barely understandable (e.g: Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku). I can honestly say that I have never read a book that I did not learn at least something from. But there is only one book, that I can remember, that I found myself reading through tears. All — four — times! The book is A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron.

I can heartily recommend this story to almost everyone: those who are dog people and those who are not; those who are concrete, linear thinkers, and will consider it a sweet, simple fairy tale for adults; those who are abstract, tangential thinkers, who will find avenues for mental exploration lurking in abundance at every turn; and those who just appreciate a good story, expertly told.

Simply put, this is the story of a dog. A dog who dies and is reincarnated three times. We join him as one of four siblings born to a feral mother of nondescript lineage, and follow him through his next three lives. After his somewhat unremarkable birth as a mutt, he is born again as a golden retriever, a german shepherd, and a black lab.

Each time he is reborn, he carries with him all the memories of his previous lives, and uses all of his past knowledge in his present life. Throughout his various adventures he searches to find the meaning of life and his particular purpose — for he is certain that he has one.

What makes this book so appealing is that not only are the stories of each of his lives engrossing stand-alone yarns, but the simple and straightforward way the world is presented from a dog’s point of view.

There is something so refreshing in the way the hero of the story - who just happens to be a dog - our hero-dog views the world, its rules, regulations, and the other creatures who inhabit it with him: cats; horses; ducks; other dogs; and humans. Only the latter two having any real worth, mind you.

One insight worth mentioning: Although our hero-dog encounters death many times in the story — his own and that of those for whom he cares deeply — death is never sad. Death is presented in that same straightforward, matter-of-fact way, as the natural course of events — just the way of the world, part of life, and to be expected.

At the end of each of his three lives, he is sure that he understands what his purpose has been. So it is with great surprise and chagrin that he finds himself being reborn.

Finally, in the very last paragraph of the very last page, our hero-dog feels that he has discovered what his true purpose has been throughout the journey of his four lives.

I am left with two thoughts:

1. For our hero-dog: Not so fast little friend. You thought you had everything all figured out three times before. What makes you so sure you won’t be born yet again?

2. For Jeannie Peck, who has anguished over this same question of purpose many times herself: I just wonder if, in the very last paragraph of the very last page of your own story, you will discover the answer to the question of your own life’s purpose. Or perhaps, just perhaps, are you to be born yet again?

Jeannie Peck
Southbury, CT © 2015

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